Francis Taylor/Sentinel Photo
|Members from the “Save MLK?Hospital” coalition gather for town hall meeting to hear steps being taken to reopen portions of the hospital.|
Last weekend the Claude Hudson Auditorium at Martin Luther King-Harbor Hospital was again overflowing with Save MLK Hospital Coalition members as California Congresswoman Maxine Waters was joined by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor member Yvonne B. Burke and recently sworn-in California Congress-woman Laura Richardson, and others who vowed to work together to ultimately return the facility to full operations.
Waters, who has been a vanguard in many respects in the community but especially in the fight to save the hospital, convened the town hall meeting, along with Richardson, for a day of reconciliation and renewal and to update the community on the steps that are being taken to re-open the portions of the hospital that have been closed as a result of the recent failed inspection and to urge the community to stay alert and look to the future as efforts continue to completely re-open it.
“I will continue to work with my colleagues as we fight to re-open this facility and deliver the quality health care that this community deserves,” Waters said.
Richardson, building on the energy established by the Hayes Tabernacle C.M.E. Choir in their spirited rendition of the gospel song “Do Not Pass Me By,” whose lyrics aptly described the sentiments of the audience, added her voice of support and commitment to the re-establishment of the full range of services at King Hospital, as she acknowledged her recent swearing-in to the position as congresswoman.
“In addition to dealing with the War in Iraq, I will also focus on the war at home,” she said, “and the war at home includes the fight against crime, poverty, unemployment, and inadequate health care for the citizens of this community.”
“We will work together and we will be united.” She also declared, referring to her collaboration with Waters, Burke and others, to restore operations at the hospital and before acknowledging many of the community leaders, former elected officials, union representatives and others who were in attendance in support of saving the hospital.
Burke, in whose county supervisorial district the hospital is located, opened her remarks by acknowledging the hard work of most of the hospital staff who did everything in their power to meet the inspection requirements. She also highlighted other factors that contributed to the failed inspection.
From the national and very negative attention the hospital’s inspection received and the untimely termination of several CMS staffers, and the state’s suspension and subsequent renewal of the hospital’s license, Burke said, “it was almost like there was a conspiracy to close the hospital.”
Looking forward however, Burke also explained that there are several factors that support the renewal of operations at King Hospital. Citing the increased pressure our elected officials continue to apply at the federal level, including Maxine Waters, the late Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald, now Laura Richardson and others, Burke also pointed out that we have a new surgery center and a need to provide service to 190,000 outpatient hospital visitors.
Burke described the massive public relations effort, including advertisements and letters to nearly every minister in Los Angeles County, the county has undertaken to advise the community about available, alternate hospital service providers who are in place to accommodate the present lack of services at King Hospital.
Also going forward, Burke explained that there is hope and described the Board of Supervisor’s next steps to re-establish hospital operations.
“In October a request for proposal, RFP, will be issued to see if an outside group is interested in operating the hospital,” she said. “We must continue basic operations to sustain the license that we do have to avoid possible future and very costly seismic evaluations for a new license and if the new group passes a new inspection, we will be able to restore the hospital’s operations.”
Burke stressed that the process cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely indicating that we must find a private provider to work under our license, and even though it will not be easy, it can be done. She also made it clear that in the final CMS letter announcing the hospital’s closure, they said that within 90-120 days, they would be willing to look at a new facility, suggesting that if the county can find an outside operator that meets their requirements, the hospital may eventually sustain full operations.
In closing her remarks, Burke thanked Waters for garnering the support of senators from across the nation and indicated that, “we must keep this hospital at the top of the national and the state agenda and we must make people realize that we cannot turn our back on King Hospital.”
“I hope to see this hospital back open before I am gone and I will do all I can to achieve that,” Burke concluded.