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Hospital workers are steamed at supervisors’ water perk

Workers at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance quietly steamed Tuesday when they picked up the newspaper and learned that Los Angeles County supervisors use customized water bottles at taxpayer expense.

Purified water -- delivered to the hospital in 3- and 5-gallon water tanks -- is a perk that workers found out in March would be taken away.

Hospital officials terminated water delivery March 23, according to a memo issued by the hospital’s chief executive, Miguel Ortiz-Marroquin, who expressed “regret that this measure is necessary but our financial situation is deteriorating.”

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Ortiz-Marroquin left no doubt as to where the pressure came from to cut costs. He noted that although the facility had made “exceptional progress in meeting our original $24-million savings target, the county chief executive’s office recently asked all departments to save an additional 1%.”

Stopping delivery of bottled water, he said, was an area where costs could be trimmed without affecting patient care.

“Once current water supplies are depleted,” the memo said, “the vendor will remove empty bottles, crates and dispensers.”

Sachi Hamai, the county supervisors’ chief executive officer, did not respond to a request for comment on why Harbor-UCLA workers had to make do without bottled water and the supervisors did not.

Before the supervisors’ Tuesday board meetings, a student worker, paid $9.92 an hour for a range of tasks, prepares water bottles with labels emblazoned with the county seal.

County officials called the cost of the bottles -- including labels -- negligible and said the labor takes less than a minute.

The customized bottles, free to the supervisors, have been provided weekly for years.

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garrett.therolf @latimes.com


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