CNS--Mark Ridley-Thomas was sworn in Monday as Second District Los Angeles County supervisor after winning an election race on a promise to make healthcare his top priority and work to bring about the reopening of Martin Luther King-Harbor Hospital. Ridley-Thomas, who was elected to succeed the retiring Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, was sworn in at noon during an hour-long ceremony at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration. The new supervisor made the reopening of the troubled facility in South Los Angeles a central issue in his hotly contested election campaign against Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks.
He says, he intends to make good on promises to reopen King-Harbor, which sits in his district.
"I fully expect that my colleagues on the board will look to me for leadership in this matter, and I feel obliged to provide that leadership," Ridley-Thomas said.
Ridley-Thomas was a senator in the California Legislature until stepping down to take the county job. While in the Senate, he chaired the Select Committee on the Los Angeles County Healthcare Crisis. In his role on the committee, Ridley-Thomas called for a solid timeline for reopening the hospital, including a target date and short-term milestones.
Ridley-Thomas has recommended using a public-private partnership as an operating model for reopening the facility, and has called on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to create a multi-agency task force to assist with the reopening. When asked why his efforts would succeed after more than a year's worth of failed attempts to revive the hospital, Ridley-Thomas said, "It is
fundamentally a matter of focused leadership, and that is precisely what I intend to bring to this."
Emergency and in-patient services were halted at King-Harbor--formerly known as Martin Luther King Jr.-Drew Hospital--in August 2007 after it failed a "make-or-break" inspection by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. County officials have been under pressure to reopen the hospital, with the burden of its closure straining the county's already fragile health care system and leaving area residents without adequate access to medical services.