Thursday, June 21, 2007

State May Close Killer King!

Two things. First, it'll take way too long for the State to shut down King (and someone else will do it long before then), but it helps give the County Supervisors the political cover - if they can still imagine they need it - to shut down King... temporarily... themselves.

And as for the second thing - that'll be in my article that is about to be posted on CITYWATCH (and then here) in about an hour...

State moves to revoke King-Harbor's license
By Charles Ornstein and Rich Connell
Times Staff Writer

4:19 PM PDT, June 21, 2007

The state of California warned Los Angeles County officials today that it was taking steps to revoke the license of Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital, a move that would force the long-troubled public hospital to close.

The action, the boldest thus far by the state, follows recent findings by the federal government that patients at the hospital are, after years of reform efforts, in immediate jeopardy of harm or death. The state Department of Health Services has never before threatened such a penalty against King-Harbor and, has not taken such an action against a hospital since 2004.

The state's intervention dramatically increases the pressure on King-Harbor, whose turbulent history traces back almost to its inception.

The federal government has for some time dangled the threat of pulling crucial Medicare and Medi-Cal funding -- a matter that could be settled by an inspection next month. But a hospital cannot operate without a license.

Los Angeles County supervisors were notified by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office today that the hospital would be sent a formal document outlining the reasons for revocation by next week. County officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Schwarzenegger, who has been meeting with community leaders about the hospital's future, was personally involved in the decision, state officials said. It marks a shift for the governor, who had urged the federal government to continue funding the hospital in recent months in hopes it would reform.

The decision, however, is subject to appeal -- a process that could take a year. And the state suggested in a letter to county health director Bruce Chernof today that it could rescind its action if the hospital was able to show that it met state and federal standards -- a goal it has consistently been unable to meet.

"We're really worried that the people will think the hospital closes tomorrow," said Sandra Shewry, director of the state health services agency. "It doesn't mean that. Services continue while this process plays out. The best end point is for that hospital to come into compliance with those standards."

Pressure on the state had been building in recent weeks, especially after highly publicized lapses in care. In one case, a 43-year-old woman writhed in pain untreated on the floor of King-Harbor's emergency room lobby for 45 minutes before dying. In another, a brain tumor patient waited four days for treatment before his family drove him to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center 10 miles away for emergency surgery.

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