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U.S. Representative Maxine Waters to L.A. County Board of Supervisors:

July 15, 2009
Press Release

U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (CA-35) today presented the following letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors at a hearing to discuss the future of Martin Luther King hospital:

October 17, 2006

Bruce Chernof, MD
Director & Chief Medical Officer
Los Angeles County Health Services
300 S. Figueroa – 9th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Dear Dr. Chernof:

Thank you for discussing with us some of the key issues in the proposed MetroCare plan that you have presented to the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors today. We are very much aware of the difficulties that putting together a comprehensive plan to keep Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital (MLK or "the hospital") open has presented. Furthermore, we understand that, in order to be approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), this plan must demonstrate a radical re-organization of the management structure of the hospital. We are very concerned about the short deadline set by CMS for the submission of a plan that would allow it to consider continuing the funding which is now in jeopardy.

The community is supportive of the framework for the re-organization of MLK that you
presented at the October 3rd meeting of the L. A. County Board of Supervisors. This framework described a plan that would keep MLK open and transfer its management 
to Harbor/UCLA. We eagerly awaited the substantive MetroCare plan that was presented here today.

In our last conversation, you indicated that the following core services would continue at MLK:

 Emergency Medical Services§
 General Surgery§
 General Medicine§
 Outpatient and Inpatient Diabetes§
 Cancer Treatment§
 Asthma Treatment§
 Preventative Heart Disease§
 Stroke Prevention and Treatment§
 High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Management and Treatment§
 Psychiatric Services for adults and youth§

Following your presentation today, we will have an opportunity to revisit and analyze the proposed changes in core services at MLK so that we can ensure that services that are drastically needed are included in the final plan.

We fully agree that the above listed core services should be retained at MLK. In particular, we stress the importance of retaining geriatric, obstetric, pediatric ICU, and neonatal services at MLK. Although it has been reported that the number of live-birth deliveries that have occurred at the hospital on a daily basis have declined and may not justify the continuation of obstetrics at the hospital, we believe the bad publicity given to the hospital over the past 2 ½ years by The Los Angeles Times has contributed to this reduction in deliveries. Nevertheless, we expect a substantial rise in the number of babies delivered at MLK as its reputation is restored.

There has been considerable discussion in the community about the proposed name change for the hospital. We are indeed supportive of maintaining MLK as a public county facility, and we are very appreciative that the plan does not call for its privatization. While we understand that Harbor will undertake the management of the hospital, it is important to avoid consideration of a new name that would diminish the significance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital and its historical background. The hospital was named for one of the world's greatest civil rights leaders. "Martin Luther King, Jr." connotes the Civil Rights movement and inspires hope and possibility, and we must do nothing to dim the lights of hope and possibility. Therefore, the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. must not be preceded by "Harbor." If the name "Harbor" is required to signify radical change for purpose of the new application to CMS, then the name should rather become "Martin Luther King, Jr. – Harbor Hospital" or the like. There has already been some discussion in the press about calling the new facility "Harbor - Martin Luther King, Jr.," and we would hope this does not become a divisive issue that will derail community support that we have forged in order to keep the doors of the hospital open.

On the practical side of this issue, we would not want patients seeking services and information about the hospital to be misled or fail to locate the hospital when making inquiries simply because they did not know to use "Harbor" instead of Martin Luther King, Jr. in conducting their search.

As you know, the closure of MLK has been rumored for some time now, and members of the community are extremely unsettled about the future of MLK. They believe that it has been on the verge of closure for quite awhile. There is much discussion in the community about whether MLK will ever be returned to a fully-service hospital or whether the proposal is the beginning of the end. We have assured the community that this is an interim solution to overcoming the deficiencies that have been identified by CMS and that the goal of the L. A. County Department of Health Services (DHS) is to eventually restore MLK to a full service hospital.

Therefore, it is extremely important that the transition be done in a seamless manner. The hospital must not close at any time. Closure for any period of time will send the wrong signal to the community. It will fuel rumors, send false alarms, and cause continued speculation about closing the facility.

This letter serves to underscore the immediate crisis that this transition must be done in a relatively short period of time. However, we recognize that much work must be done to address both the immediate and the long-term planning for MLK, and we look forward to working with you to achieve this.

We further recognize the need to support a request for an extension of time from CMS, which was initiated in the U.S. Congress, and funding for this transition.  To that end, we understand that the date for the Beilenson Hearing, a State-mandated hearing to determine the impact of this transition on the community, has been set for Monday, November 6th.

The undersigned parties are hopeful that the your work to develop a final list of core services for the facility will take into consideration those services that are most needed and that you will also address the transportation needs of the community that will now be required to travel an additional 11 miles to obtain the health services that were provided at MLK. Reasonably articulated goals and timelines will be necessary parts of the final plan so that the community may have reasonable expectations about the length of time it will take to restore MLK to an independent medical center under the L. A. County Department of Health Services.

There is concern about rumors that there is some unwillingness by Harbor/UCLA to take on this new management and there may be some resistance to assuming these expanded responsibilities. We would like DHS to anticipate these kinds of problems which may cause residents of the MLK service area to feel unwelcome and/or unwanted at Harbor/UCLA and thus create problems that could have been avoided with advance planning and training.

We are very pleased that the community is showing tremendous understanding and cooperation to assist in making this task less difficult. It is imperative that you work with the community to avoid misunderstanding and miscommunication and that you involve the community in decisions about all the services, funding, and overall access to quality healthcare proposed.
We thank you for the tremendous effort that is being undertaken by you, DHS, and the Board of Supervisors. It is imperative that we continue to move forward and demonstrate our collective ability to take giant steps, even painful ones, to keep the doors of Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital open and continue providing core services for the residents of our community as well as expanded services at Harbor/UCLA.


Congresswoman Maxine Waters  Tim Watkins
Save King Drew Coalition             Watts Labor Community Action Committee

ATTACHMENT:  Elected Officials, Community Leaders and Supporters in attendance at the 500 plus broad based community meeting held October 2, 2006, 6pm, at WLCAC.

Lillian Mobley                        Rev. Jesse Jackson
South Central Multipurpose   Rainbow/PUSH Coalition
Senior Citizen Center

Geraldine Washington             Rev. Eric Lee 
NAACP – Los Angeles Branch  Southern Christian Leadership
Congresswoman Diane Watson  Phil Angelides
Member of Congress (CA-33)     California State Treasurer

Mervyn Dymally                           Jan Perry   
Assemblyman 52nd District        Councilwoman 9th CD  

Janice Hahn                                 Roosevelt Dorn
Councilwoman 15th CD              Mayor – City of Inglewood

Larry Guidi                                   Paul Tanaka
Mayor – City of Hawthorne          Mayor – City of Gardena

Harold Hoffman                           Curren Price
Councilman – City of Inglewood  Mayor – City of Lawndale

Isadore Hall                                  Sandra Davis
Councilman – City of Compton    Board President 
                                                     Culver City Unified School

Mae Thomas                                 Mike Davis
Board Member                               Democratic Assembly Elect – 48th District
Compton Unified School District 
Greg Brown                                    Rev. Reginald Pope  
Watts Neighborhood Council        Bethel Missionary Baptist Church 

Rev. Robert Mason                        Dr. Janet Clark
Macedonia Baptist Church            Maxine Waters Employment
                                                     Preparation Center

Dr. Ernie Smith                              Jeannie Washington
Black Community Health Task      Black Women's Forum