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MLK Hospital Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has made the restoration of MLK Hospital to its full potential, a cornerstone of his administration. According to Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas' website, he is building more than a hospital; he's building a sprawling health care complex that will be an economic engine for new jobs and allied health business development.Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has been the driving force to restore to Greater South Los Angeles the critical life-sustaining healthcare resource that was lost due to mismanagement and high profile medical failures. When King-Harbor Medical Center that was forced to close in August 2007 for repeatedly failing to pass medical accreditation reviews, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas vowed, that when elected in November 2008, he would work tirelessly to create a new Martin Luther King Hospital to replace the long troubled facility. Through his leadership, collaboration and fueled by his dogged determination, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas is very close to fulfilling his promise made in 2008. MLK Hospital is of vital importance to the South Los Angeles community and the surrounding communities. Without a community hospital, travel (emergency or otherwise) time to distant health facilities could result in dire consequences to the residents. MLK Hospital is the community's lifeline. Under the leadership of Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, the Board recently awarded $16.8 million in additional funding for construction of the MLK multi-service ambulatory care center, according to the news report. That amount added to the total budget of $167 million. The report went on to state that the action taken by the Board was for the installation of standard hospital equipment, such as surgical lights, surgical integrated camera systems, and scrub sinks. However, the combination of the aforementioned funding moves the hospital closer to completion. At that time the Supervisor said, "We are committed to providing the community with a top of the line facility and cutting edge technology. The vote today elevates the progress of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus to fulfill its promise of providing the best possible health care to its patients."The Los Angeles Sentinel reached out to Supervisor Ridley-Thomas to be able to provide an update to the community on his progress toward the full restoration of King Hospital. These are the questions that were asked of the Supervisor and the answers that he provided to the community.1. What is the status of the restoration of King Hospital as of today? The construction of the new hospital is a compelling story, not only from a health perspective but also in terms of economic development and uplifting of the community. The work of building our new hospital is supplying much-needed jobs to the skilled workers who need them most -- and they are doing a wonderful job. I was out at the site just last week and was impressed by the ability and dedication of the workers. Under the construction careers and local hiring policies I authored, almost one-third of the work completed, 30% of the construction hours performed on the facility have been by African Americans, and nearly 40% of the workers live within a five-mile radius of the hospital. I'd like to emphasize, however, that this really is a new facility -- not just a re-imagining of the old hospital. Of course, there are elements of the campus that were there before, but there is a new vision for a Martin Luther King, Jr. health village and it's exciting. The hospital is on schedule for completion in the spring or summer of next year.2. At the end of the restoration project that you have envisioned, will the hospital be fully operational including federal assistance as before? It will. It is our expectation that the new hospital will meet every standard of excellence and qualify for certification and funding from the federal government. 3. Will the hospital remain under the umbrella of the UC system? The University of California Board of Regents unanimously voted in 2009 to partner with the County to bring a new hospital to the community, and I have to say the Board has been engaged and supportive. We couldn't have a better partner as we move forward with our new vision. The agreement with the Regents calls for UC to provide 14 to 20 full-time physicians (from UCLA, UC Irvine, UC Riverside) and other medical staff. This is a unique public-private partnership in which the County will contract for medical services in County-owned facilities leased by an independent MLK board. 4. Are the other supervisors on board with this project or is it a solo project? Absolutely. Bringing a new hospital to the community has the unanimous support of the full Board of Supervisors. A project of this magnitude is never the work of just one person, and there is a strong collaboration between this Board and the state, UC, the MLK hospital governing board, the County departments of, health services, mental health and public works, as well as the office of the Chief Executive Officer and community stakeholders. 5. Will the relations with Charles Drew University continue relative to supplying interns, residencies and fully qualified doctors? The academic enterprise at the new Martin Luther King, Jr. hospital remains undefined. UC, in conjunction with the hospital governing board, will play the leading role in re-establishing clinical teaching and training at the facility. I'd like to emphasize that all of the partners in this undertaking have expressed their commitment to academic excellence, quality patient care, diversity, cultural competency and serving the underserved. The role played by any medical school at the hospital will be viewed in this context. And in this context, Drew can thrive yet again and in fact is already doing so.
The community awaits!