Hospital Faces More Citations for Lapses

Times Staff Writer

Government health inspectors plan to cite Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center for continued problems in its nursing care and for deficiencies in the upkeep of the public hospital in South Los Angeles, Los Angeles County officials said Friday.

But the inspectors, who conducted a four-day review of the hospital this week, determined that King/Drew would remain eligible for federal funding as long as it fixed the problems.

Government inspectors outlined their findings for King/Drew and county health department officials Friday afternoon and will follow up with specific details in writing in mid-June.


“While today’s exit conference contained good news, it is clear that there is significant work still to be done,” wrote Fred Leaf, the chief operating officer of the Department of Health Services, in a memo Friday to county supervisors and other officials.

John Wallace, a spokesman for the department, said in an interview that the problems were fixable. “We feel they are things that are within the control of the department to turn around,” he said.

Steven Chickering, a manager for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in San Francisco, said inspectors found deficiencies in the hospital’s “physical environment and nursing.” He declined to comment further until the findings are formalized.

This week’s inspection at King/Drew followed a series of critical reviews and sanctions in recent months by accreditors and regulators.

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has cut off King/Drew’s ability to train surgeons, radiologists and neonatologists. The council has also indicated that the hospital’s overall supervision of doctor training is substandard.

Meanwhile, state and federal inspectors have cited the 233-bed hospital for a pattern of lapses in care, including the deaths of five patients last year after a host of errors by nurses and other employees.


Inspectors found that nurses at King/Drew were ordered to lie about patients’ conditions, failed to give crucial medications prescribed by doctors and left seriously ill patients unattended for hours.

In March, the federal government threatened to cut off funding to the Willowbrook hospital, but rescinded the threat after King/Drew officials fixed serious flaws in the administration of prescription drugs.