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High-Stakes Inspection of King/Drew Begins

Times Staff Writer

Federal regulators began a make-or-break inspection Monday of Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center to determine if the public hospital has fixed myriad patient-care problems that have repeatedly led to patient deaths.

A team of 11 inspectors from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services arrived unannounced at King/Drew on Monday morning for a review that is expected to last several days. If King/Drew fails any part of it, the hospital stands to lose $200 million in federal funding, about half its budget.

If that happens, Los Angeles County supervisors say, they would have little choice but to downsize it, close it or give it to someone else to run.

The results of the review are not expected for several weeks.

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The hospital, in Willowbrook just south of Watts, serves a disproportionately poor and minority community. It has been out of compliance with Medicare standards since January 2004 because of neglect by nurses, pharmacy errors and the improper use of Taser stun guns to subdue psychiatric patients.

In the last two years, inspectors have visited the hospital more than a dozen times to investigate problems. The hospital lost its national accreditation early last year and has not applied to get it back.

Medicare officials in recent months have conducted training for King/Drew staff on how to prepare for the review.

King/Drew and county officials say they have implemented a host of reforms at the hospital, including hiring outside consultants to take over operations, recruiting a new permanent management team, disciplining hundreds of employees and spending millions on renovations.

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“We are cautiously optimistic that the survey will go well,” said Dr. William Loos, acting senior medical officer with the county Department of Health Services.


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