Hospital closures in L.A.

A major hospital in the San Fernando Valley area of L.A., where I live, has closed.

State Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer declined Thursday to intervene in the voluntary closure this week of a 209-bed Van Nuys hospital, despite pleas from a Los Angeles city councilman and a citizens group to take legal action.

Among their stated reasons for closing are state-mandated rules saying emergency rooms must treat all patients and that the nurse-patient ratio be 1 to 5 – rules they say they can’t meet and still pay the bills.

The ever “business-friendly” Gov. Schwarzenegger wants to roll back those better nursing ratios from 1-5 to 1-12.

Nurses I’ve spoken to say a 1-5 ratio is doable but the 1-12 Schwarzenegger wants will result in a decreased quality of health care. How does making healthcare worse help anyone?

Opponents say closing the nonprofit hospital adds to a growing healthcare crisis in Los Angeles County. Since the 1980s, 10 trauma centers and 18 emergency rooms have closed.

A major battle is L.A. has started over the planned closure of the King/Drew trauma center, an action which would leave this mostly African-American and Latino part of town without ANY trauma center.

Reaction to King/Drew plan loud and clear

In an outpouring that was by turns hostile and heartsick, the community that relies on Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center turned out in force Monday to strenuously oppose plans to close the hospital’s prized trauma unit.

Among those opposing the closing is the always formidable Rep. Maxine Waters, who has been conducting hearings on King/Drew. Never ever under-estimate her or her organizing ability. She is a valuable and powerful ally to have in this struggle, and is fired up on the issue.

Health care is a right. People need to have trauma centers nearby where they can go for emergency health care. The current health care problem is systemic and requires a systemic solution. The US is the only industrialized nation without some form of free medical care.