Another patient hooked up to a cardiac monitor died at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center recently after nurses failed to notice the patient's deteriorating vital signs, Los Angeles County health officials reported in a confidential memo late Monday.

The death last month is the sixth case in 21 months in which a critically ill patient at the county-owned hospital was virtually ignored while monitors designed to alert nurses to trouble went unheeded.

After each case, county officials promised to retrain nurses and emphasize the importance of watching patients' vital signs.

The continued problems at King/Drew are expected to dominate today's scheduled meeting of the county Board of Supervisors.

The health department's memo to the supervisors also reported a second death after lapses in patient care. It offered a terse description of the cardiac-monitor case.

The patient's monitor noted a drop in blood pressure, but "nursing took no action," health officials wrote.

"Approximately an hour later, the monitor began to sound that the patient's heart rate was getting dangerously low. The nurses assigned to the patient did not take any action and claimed that they did not hear an alarm."

Thirty minutes later, a charge nurse noticed the poor vital signs on the monitor. A Code Blue was called, but the patient was pronounced brain dead 35 hours later, the memo said.

Hospital technicians and the monitor's manufacturer both inspected the machine and found it to be "in proper working order," the memo said.

The health department told supervisors that it investigated the death and other incidents after The Times inquired about them.

The latest report left county supervisors struggling to find a response.

"This is a regurgitation of what happened last year," Supervisor Gloria Molina said. "The same thing. I don't understand what it takes, or what it means, or how you can have such callous persons in a hospital who are supposed to be listening to a monitor.

"Our liability is growing every single day," she said.

Supervisor Mike Antonovich said the board needs to act aggressively before more patients die.

"It's time to take action," he said.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said the latest batch of problems would probably force him and his colleagues to reopen the question of whether the hospital can continue to operate.

"There's not going to be a pretty solution to this," he said. "This is a terribly ugly situation."

Today, the supervisors are expected to debate a motion by Antonovich to reconsider the county's ties with Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, which oversees the training of aspiring specialists at King/Drew. The lax supervision of doctor trainees was cited in virtually all of the recent cases of patient-care lapses at the hospital, which is in Willowbrook just south of Watts.

Monday's memo was the second in two weeks in which the county Department of Health Services has told the five supervisors about fatal breakdowns in care. Just last week, officials provided details about three deaths over a four-day period in late March after what officials believed were critical medical lapses.