September 22, 2004 in Nation/World

Busy trauma center likely to close in L.A.

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – The Board of Supervisors moved Tuesday to close a busy trauma center, despite pleas from hundreds of residents of Los Angeles County’s poorest neighborhoods.

The board voted 3-1 after a public hearing to tentatively approve closing the trauma center at South Los Angeles’ troubled Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center.

The center, which handles more gunshot wounds than any other in the county, would not close for at least several months, pending a fact-finding hearing required by state law. But Supervisor Michael Antonovich said a reversal of the decision was unlikely.

Thomas Garthwaite, who heads the county’s Health Department, has said the trauma center is such a drain on resources that it threatens the survival of the entire facility.

The hospital faces loss of its national accreditation and $200 million in federal funding because of a litany of problems, including patients dying because of staff negligence and reports of people in pain having to wait 20 hours or more to see a doctor.

Officials say the approximately 2,000 people treated each year could be accommodated by the county’s 12 other trauma centers. Meanwhile, resources could be directed at correcting problems at the rest of the hospital.

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