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Rep. Maxine Waters Issues Letter to LA County Board of Supervisors As Future of King/Drew Hospital and Medical Treatment for Low-Income, Minorities Hangs in the Balance

July 15, 2009
Press Release

Today, U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (CA-35) issued the following letter to members of the LA County Board of Supervisors calling on them to do everything possible to keep King/Drew Hospital open and providing essential services to the people of South Los Angeles:

Dear Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors:

I am very disappointed that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency responsible for oversight of hospital services, has failed the Martin Luther King Jr./Charles R. Drew Medical Center (KDMC) after identifying only nine deficiencies out of a possible twenty-three Medicare Conditions of Participation. It is unfathomable that after so much time, attention and work dedicated to the goal of improving KDMC that it would fail to pass the survey necessary to retain its federal funding.

The community, organized under the "Save King Drew Coalition," has toiled diligently to support positive efforts to turn this institution around. We have held regular community meetings to get input from and to hear the concerns of the community and to interpret the actions of the Board of Supervisors and the motives of the LA Times. After encouraging the Board of Supervisors to hold a Beilenson Hearing, we organized over a thousand community residents to attend the hearing to have their voices heard. The Save King/Drew Coalition has consistently encouraged the Board of Supervisors to make the Medical Center a priority in the day-to-day operation of L.A. County's business. We have repeatedly asked for accountability in the decisions and changes made in delivering health services to the residents of L.A. County. Coalition members attended many meetings of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and offered testimony, recommendations and support for improving KDMC. My office, in particular, has extended unwavering support and has volunteered to assist in any way possible to boost the morale of the staff and image of KDMC.

Over the past four years, the County Board of Supervisors has carried out a variety of actions designed to strengthen the Medical Center:

     • Cascading staff in Spring of  2003
     • Awarding a contract in excess of $1 million to the Camden Group          address deficiencies in the nursing department
     • Conducting a Beilenson Public hearing on the proposed closure of the trauma center
     • Awarding a contract in excess of $13.2 million to Navigant Consulting to comply with the Memorandum of understanding   with CMS and to attempt to retain accreditation with the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare  Organizations  (JCAHO)
     • Creating the KDMC Hospital Advisory Board (HAB)
     • Hiring a permanent C.E.O. to take responsibility for the overall improvement and well-being of the medical center

Time and time again, we have been led to believe that improvements were taking place at Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital. L.A. County Service Planning Area (SPA) 6 encompasses neighborhoods where more than 1,058,022 people live, where 47.4% of the adults and almost 30% of the children are uninsured. It has the greatest health disparities in the county. SPA 6 residents suffer disproportionately from preventable diseases, such as AIDS, asthma, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. The South Los Angeles community, as a part of SPA 6 – the least healthy SPA in the entire county - will not be deterred from insisting on access to quality health services at the KDMC site. We are asking the Board of Supervisors to immediately develop a cogent plan that is acceptable to CMS for the continued operation of health services at the KDMC location.

The community does not manage hospitals, hire and fire staff nor does it determine the budget for Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital.  However, we fully understand that the Board of Supervisors has the responsibility of managing all of L.A. County's health services, including all the public hospitals that serve the county's residents. We fully expect the Board to find an acceptable alternative for the management of Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital and to accomplish this within the allotted time given by the federal agency responsible for oversight, CMS.

I look forward to working with you to find the correct alternative for maintaining complete and comprehensive health care services for the residents of South Los Angeles.


Rep. Maxine Waters
Member of Congress