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Navigant Awarded King/Drew Contract

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a contract Tuesday to pay a private consulting group $13.2 million to manage the day-to-day operations and restructure Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center.

Navigant Consulting Inc., a Chicago-based company, can begin work as soon as Nov. 1 and will file a comprehensive assessment by Jan. 3.

The county agreed to bring in outside managers as part of a pact last month with federal health regulators, who have threatened to cut off $200 million in federal funding. The contract had to be signed by Tuesday.

King/Drew has faced a series of lapses in patient care, including several that contributed to deaths, according to regulators. The latest revelation came last week, when the county confirmed that a 28-year-old patient died after a nurse turned down the audio alarm on his vital-signs monitor, then failed to notice that his heart was barely beating.

Supervisors peppered health officials and two representatives from Navigant with a variety of questions, including how the county could remove employees if Navigant recommends their termination and how much clinical experience the consulting company had.

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Health officials assured the supervisors that they have developed a “fast track” system for removing county employees.

Navigant, citing client confidentiality, declined to supply details about its operations at other sites, but pointed to its work at Detroit Medical Center and a six-month turnaround of a hospital in the southwestern United States that, like King/Drew, faced sanctions by regulators and accreditors.

Federal regulators and a national accrediting agency “have given this hospital a pass for many years, decades in fact, and they obviously missed something just as we did,” Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said. “I think, because of the history here, we should demand more.”

After half-jokingly offering a “big bonus” to turn around King/Drew in a year, he said, “There’s a lot riding on this ... and nobody is more frustrated than the five of us.”

Several supervisors asked whether the company was prepared to cope with controversy.

“We were, I think, brutally open with the firm,” said Fred Leaf, who heads the county’s interim task force at King/Drew.

Kae Robertson, Navigant’s project executive at King/Drew, said they were prepared. “We had a lot of detail” about the hospital and its importance to the community, she said.

Unlike other board motions related to King/Drew, such as the proposal last month to hold public hearings to consider closing the trauma center, few members of the public commented on the Navigant contract. Two community members reminded the firm that local residents did not want to be left out of the process.

Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke also proposed a motion to delay the public hearings to consider closing the trauma center at King/Drew, but it did not pass. The public hearings are scheduled for Nov. 15.


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