Their stand reflects political reality: The Los Angeles County board faces pressures to close the center that are no less compelling than the public pressures to keep it open. At this point, backing down would be difficult.
Interviews over the last few days indicate that four of the five supervisors — Don Knabe, Zev Yaroslavsky, Mike Antonovich and Gloria Molina — are strongly inclined to close the trauma center in Willowbrook, south of Watts.
"These are painful decisions," Knabe said, "but you have to take this dramatic action to try and save the hospital."
Tuesday's scheduled vote comes as officials are trying to convince federal inspectors and national accrediting groups that the county has the resolve to correct the many problems at King/Drew and avoid losing the funding and accreditation vital to keeping the hospital open.
Backing away from the closure would also mean a very public abandonment of the county's top health official, Dr. Thomas L. Garthwaite, the architect of the closure.
Keeping the trauma center open would require supervisors and county health officials to reassess arrangements approved last week to open a new trauma unit at California Hospital Medical Center just south of downtown. The county's financial agreement with California Hospital hinges on the medical center treating hundreds of trauma patients who would otherwise rely on King/Drew.
Moreover, despite the protests, the political costs of closing the King/Drew trauma center are far from clear.
Most opposition has come from the South Los Angeles community served by the hospital, where many believe that closing the trauma center would require victims of gunshots and car accidents to go farther for trauma care.
That area is represented by Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, who withdrew her endorsement of the closure after complaints from community activists, local residents and doctors at the facility.
There has been little evidence so far that the passion to save the trauma center extends beyond South Los Angeles.
"Politically, because [supervisors are] elected by district, I think that a lot of them don't have a lot at stake," said Raphael Sonenshein, a professor of political science at Cal State Fullerton.
Except for Burke, other supervisors and their aides said they had received barely any dissent from their constituents.
"We have not received any sort of clamor from our district to keep it open," said Roxane Marquez, Molina's press deputy. A large chunk of Molina's district borders the area served by King/Drew's trauma unit.
"There hasn't been a credible alternative proposed," Yaroslavsky said. "What we've had is a lot of defending of the status quo."
That continued support for the closure has reinforced feelings among opponents that the fate of the trauma unit had already been decided and that last week's public hearing and protest, which drew more than 1,000 people, were simply a formality.
"It does seem that their minds are made up," said Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, whose father, the late Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, helped found the hospital.
Hahn and others critics — including U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) and radio host Steve Harvey — fear that closing the center will jeopardize victims of gunshot wounds and car accidents because paramedics will have to drive to another trauma center.