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King/Drew’s Rating Lowered

Times Staff Writers

A national hospital commission found this week that Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center had not fully corrected problems identified during a surprise inspection in February, and it lowered the status of the troubled public hospital.

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations downgraded King/Drew to provisional accreditation, placing it among the bottom 1% of 4,600 hospitals nationwide, spokesman Mark Forstneger said. Accreditation by the commission is seen as a seal of approval for hospitals and makes them eligible for federal funding.

“Provisional is not a good category to be in,” said Margaret VanAmringe, a vice president of the commission.

During the February visit to investigate a complaint, inspectors found problems in six areas, including leadership, staffing, teamwork and hazardous-waste management. Five of the six problems were corrected to the agency’s satisfaction.

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The sixth -- oversight that King/Drew provides to physician trainees -- was not, Forstneger said. The hospital has until July 28 to make changes or risk additional sanctions -- and ultimately loss of accreditation.

This week’s action is the latest headache for the 233-bed hospital owned by Los Angeles County that serves a predominantly minority and impoverished community. But county health officials say they do not view it as a setback.

“It is what it is,” county spokesman John Wallace said. “We’re still an accredited hospital, and we will submit the corrective action plan for the one area they haven’t accepted yet.”

Separately, the commission carried out a more comprehensive survey of King/Drew in May, which is conducted at all hospitals every three years.

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After that visit, the hospital called a news conference to announce that it had earned continued full accreditation from the group.

“It’s certainly good to have a good news day rather than a bad news day, because we’ve had our share of those,” county Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, whose district includes the hospital, said at the news conference. “It’s time to move on.”

At the time, officials said they still needed to fix 14 problems, but they hailed the visit as evidence of a turnaround at the hospital.

If King/Drew does not correct those issues by August, its accreditation status could be downgraded further, county health officials acknowledged. The lower status would mean that the hospital “does not meet standards in some important ways and is performing only marginally,” the commission’s website says.


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