While inspectors spoke to the nurse, the monitors for all six patients in 4B showed a red X next to the "pulse" read-out.

None of the three nurses in 4B at the time knew the X meant that the alarm, designed to alert them to dangerous dips in patients' heart rates, was off.

While the inspectors were at King/Drew, county officials were in the process of closing 4B until they could ensure that the staff was properly trained.

Last March, in the second of the deaths, the patient arrived at the emergency room with gangrene of his lower leg, pneumonia with a collapsed lung and kidney failure.

Although his temperature was 90.8 degrees, there was no evidence that the nurse gave him a heating blanket, inspectors found. Nor was there any sign that he received the antibiotics or blood products ordered by the doctor to control his infection and blood-clotting problems during the 22 1/2 hours he was in the emergency room, the report said. The man died a short time after being transferred to an inpatient bed, according to inspectors.

'Horrifying' Conditions

Supervisor Gloria Molina said county officials were working as quickly as possible to reverse the "horrifying" conditions at King/Drew.

"We recognize there are huge problems there -- huge, huge problems," she said. "They must be resolved, and we need to take some very drastic actions, and those are the actions we're taking today."

Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, whose district includes the hospital, said she felt terrible about how the patients died. Given the details of 20-year-old McDonald's death, she said, "It's something that should not happen."

Yaroslavsky said he was particularly troubled that some of the patient care lapses had occurred after county officials took over the day-to-day running of the hospital.

"It was more than a little bit disconcerting that problems were still popping up after all this had been known to us," he said. "And it begs the question: What is going on there today?"