Security to Be Bolstered at Hospital in Sylmar : Health: Supervisors allocate $1.5 million for four facilities, including $300,000 for Olive View Medical Center.
On a day of massive budget cuts throughout county government, one field received nearly all the money requested: hospital security.
Responding in part to February’s triple shooting at County-USC Medical Center, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Thursday allocated a precious $1.5 million for metal detectors and extra security guards at four hospitals, including more than $300,000 for Olive View Medical Center in Sylmar.
The board approved the expenditure at the same time that it chopped $1.6 billion from the rest of the budget, including $100 million from public health. Unless the state releases additional funds, 24 county health facilities that provide medical care for low-income residents--including four in Van Nuys, Pacoima, Tujunga and Burbank--will close Sept. 1.
Some health officials criticized the board’s decision, saying the money should have been used to rescue at least one or two of the clinics.
But board members said the increased security measures are essential, especially if the clinics are closed, which will send more patients flocking to already crowded county emergency rooms, another cause for concern over violence.
To remain open this year, the Pacoima clinic needs at least $1.13 million; Burbank, $768,000; Tujunga, $525,000; and Mid-Valley Comprehensive Health Center in Van Nuys, $3.64 million, according to the Department of Health Services.
“Keep the clinics open. . . . People are much more important than metal detectors,” said Sandy Tilsen, nursing supervisor at the Pacoima clinic, which handled 28,000 patient visits last year.
But the supervisors said there is still hope for the clinics. The county is trying to persuade the state Legislature to relax a complex matching-fund arrangement and release $76 million that has already been earmarked for Los Angeles County.
“Public safety is absolutely a higher priority involving life and death” than spending the money to keep one or two clinics open, said Joel Bellman, a spokesman for Board Chairman Ed Edelman, who represents most of the San Fernando Valley.
“The incident at County-USC shocked everyone into the realization that hospital security needs are very real and urgent.”
One of three doctors injured by a disgruntled patient in the Feb. 8 shooting at County-USC Medical Center has already sued the county, alleging he was endangered by inadequate county security measures. And attorneys for the county have advised the board that the county’s potential liability could increase if security improvements are not made.
“We just have to have security,” said Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, who introduced the motion, co-sponsored by Edelman. “You have gang members who have been shot (being treated) in the same facility as people from another gang.”
About 110 of the 1,949 crimes--nearly 6%--that occurred during the 12 months between April, 1992, and March of this year at the county’s six hospitals were assaults, including battery, rape and robbery, said Lt. Lee Taylor of the county Office of Security Management.
The county spent thousands of dollars after the shooting last year for security improvements at the County-USC Medical Center, including a bulletproof wall separating patients and medical personnel, and extra guards.
In approving all but $32,153 requested for hospital security by the county Office of Security Management, the board extended the security program for another year at County-USC Medical Center, and increased precautions at the three other county hospitals with emergency rooms: Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Martin Luther King/Drew Medical Center and Olive View.
The Office of Security Management did not recommend making improvements at the two other county hospitals--Rancho Los Amigos and High Desert--because they do not have emergency rooms, where many assaults occur.
At Olive View, 18 of the 212 crimes that occurred in the year-long period ending in March--about 8.5%--were assaults on medical personnel or patients.
Olive View will use the funds approved by the board to install a metal detector at the emergency room entrance, hire at least five additional guards and obscure the glass panels that now offer a direct view into the treatment areas of the emergency room, according to a July 22 report prepared by the Office of Security Management.
“This is wonderful,” said Maple Gray, Olive View’s assistant administrator in charge of outpatient services, referring to the allocation. “We will move quickly as possible to put the measures in place.”
Crime at County Hospitals Citing the need for extra security, the Board of Supervisors allocated $1.5 million for metal detectors and additional guards at four of its six hospitals with emergency rooms. The Olive View Medical Center in Sylmar will receive $302,225 for security measures. Here is a crime breakdown for Valley facilities. Figures are for the 12-month period between April, 1992, and March, 1993 (the latest period for which statistics are available.) Olive View Medical Center: Total Crimes: 18 Assaults:** 212 County-USC Medical Center: Total Crimes: 69 Assaults**: 792* Harbor-UCLA Medical Center: Total Crimes: 0 Assaults**: 272 Martin Luther King / Drew Medical Center: Total Crimes: 20 Assaults**: 445 Rancho Los Amigos (no emergency room): Total Crimes: 3 Assaults**: 189 High Desert (no emergency room): Total Crimes: 0 Assaults**: 39 *Crimes include assaults, theft, arson, disturbing the peace, drug possession, graffiti, etc. ** Assaults include battery, robbery, sexual assault. Source: Los Angeles County Office of Security Management