Why are these patients receiving substandard care? It doesn't matter what the patient demographics are, (African-American, Latino, Oriental, Caucasion), it doesn't matter what the staff demographics are. What does matter is that continual mistakes are not being corrected, even when people are dying from those mistakes. What does matter is that the citizens of this area are entitled to the best possible care available, the same as at ANY other medical facility, and they should not be settling for less.
The Board of Supervisors is completely inept regarding the hospital and its problems, prefering to bury their heads in the sand when issues arise, or band-aiding the problems. This DOES NOT solve the problem. The only way to solve the problems as they stand now is to replace the administrators that are allowing these problems to continue. The employees that perpetuate the problem must also be replaced. If an employee does not show up for work without just cause, they are fired. If an employee shows up to work impaired by drugs or alcohol, they are fired. An employee doesn't get paid overtime for time not worked.
When a mistake occurs, there must be accountability. If a treatment error costs a life there has to be accountability, whatever the title of the person(s) making the error. In any hospital in the country, a nurse acting with the reckless disregard exhibited by turning off the alarms of a patient in ICU would be fired. Remember, ICU means Intensive Care Unit, not Ignored Continually Unit. When a resident makes an error in surgery, where is the doctor that is supposed to be catching those mistakes and correcting them? Why are there horrific medication errors happening, leading to potentially permanent or even fatal consequences?
The funding that is available is horribly mismanaged, paying administrators to not correct problems, paying employees to not show up for work, paying employees to come to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and paying outrageous injury claims to people. Look at the statistics of King/Drew compared to ANY hospital of comparable size, and comparable funding sources.
King/ Drew Medical SHOULD NOT be closed, but it DOES need to have the problems corrected, and the sooner the better. If there are to be protests, they should be protests demanding that the problems be solved, and demanding the standard of care that any citizen should be able to expect. The residents of the area deserve, and should expect, better.
You have asked for solutions and opinions from healthcare workers in your skewed and scathing 5-part series on King. I am a trauma surgeon at King. I feel that I have been unfairly lumped in with a minority of "bad apples" at our hospital.
I graduated from Emory University in 1992 near the top of my class and voluntarily chose to come to King because I knew my talents would be needed in a community like the one in which the hospital resides. One of the hinderances to improving the hospital is the constant barrage of negative press. I am not advocating hiding bad outcomes and proven negligence and incompetence. What I am advocating is responsible journalism, in the true spirit that pure news reporting is supposed to possess. To continually print the same stories over and over again is nothing short of inflammatory. There is no mention of the successful treatments (which are a majority) of patients that walk through our doors.
In November Jill Leovy wrote a story about me and one of my patients which are more indicative of the outcomes Trauma service than the ones usually printed in the Times, not at all like the propagandized, unscientific evaluation of the Trauma center by Dr. Gill Cryer and his colleague. The net result of this is that now patient and family apprehension is making it even more difficult for us to render good care to our patients in an already troubled institution. The Times has to recognize its role in the hospital's problems as well.
Before any changes can be made, something has to be done to help us explore whatever positive activities are going on in the hospital. Any rational person, if they take time to read in between the inflammatory, tabloid-like reporting styles of the Times should come to the conclusion that while there have been very bad outcomes in several highly visible cases, there are many, many unsung successful treatments that occur every day. As a trauma surgeon, I have successfully operated on several patients with life threatening injuries this year alone who have been discharged and are living proof that we aren't killing everyone who walks through the door.
The biggest thing that our hospital needs is new management. DHS and the county supervisors have let poor management continue with a blind eye for years. Any institution or business is only as strong as it's leadership, not it's workers. If workers are incompetent they must be dealt with decisively and swiftly.
Another major problem which your biased reporting failed or refused to discuss is the disparity of compensation for similar job titles among the different county institutions. Sure, Ornstein and Weber spend time highlighting one or two high-level administrators that made large salaries, but I saw not one mention that a surgeon such as myself at King makes considerably less money than my counterparts at Harbor-UCLA and LAC-USC. Logic dictates that such an environment will lead to poor morale, the desire to supplement income by working elsewhere and lead to further problems.
The major problems that have to be fixed are a serious overhaul of the management at King/Drew and a pledge by DHS and the county Supervisors to act like they give a damn all the time and not when the walls come crashing down.
Bryan D. Hubbard, M.D. Trauma/General Surgery MLK/Drew Medical Center
A fine expose...both well-written and investigated. I would be interested in a formal response from King/Drew, however.
Jim Graves Newport Beach
Having been raised in south Los Angeles I find it perplexing that this hospital can stand as an inspiration to all of the "so called" activists when it offers such shameful care. When the predominant thought process for reform is what kind of political outcry will result, how can you ever expect to fix the myriad of problem? Though I don't currently live in Los Angeles I visit quite frequently and would fear for my life if I had to be rushed to the hospital there. To have to worry whether I'm being given the correct medication, whether the diagnosis is correct and even if the doctors are competent would probably cause more distress than any medical condition.
For the county supervisors to now acknowledge that they haven't done enough to correct the problems at King Drew is hogwash. These are not new problems, and they won't go away until radical change is implemented. With so many malpractice cases and ineptitude how has the hospital passed its by-annual certifications? It's a scary thought for the community at large. A hospital with such a diverse constituency should be a model for other parts of the country. Instead it's an eyesore for Los Angeles.
Reginald Howell Jr.
The L.A. Times often runs excellent, if difficult, stories on the pandemic of violence in South and East LA, and the horrid death toll, the impact on families, and the shamefully low conviction rate.
Your otherwise relevant and incisive piece on the problems of King/Drew ignores the enormous heavy lifting the hospital must do. I don't think a solution to King-Drew's problems can be discussed without paying a little tribute to the battlefield conditions their trauma staff work under.
Robert Platt New York University
I just wanted to thank you for exposing the total inepitude of everyone that runs King/Drew.
I am a registered nurse of almost 30 years. I was aghast by what I read. I don't understand how any ethical, competent RN's could work in that environment. First and foremost RN's are patient advocates and clearly these RN's fell down on the job.
I can't believe that the "activists" would have innocent people die just so they can have "their" hospital. This demonstrates how black leaders really don't serve their communities. If they did adequately advocate for their community they would never stand for substandard care for their constituents. They are self serving and I understand why the Gallup recently showed that only 18% of people think politicians have ethical standards. Clearly those in charge of Drew/King did not.
Thanks again for a great article. Let's just hope it promotes change in a drastic situation.
Linda Loiselle Camarillo
I am an employee of a Catholic hospital in Los Angeles County that has been designated by JD Powers and Associates this year as providing quality care comparable to the top 20% of hospitals nationally. This morning I just passed the admission desk where a pregnant mother told her young child, "Don't worry, this is a good place" referring to this hospital.
Your King/Drew series—in addition to winning awards in your profession—will surely create changes at one or more public hospitals in Los Angeles County. Closing services at King/Drew cannot be the only response—not when Southern California has experienced the demise of an acute care hospital every four months on average since 1996.
In the 80s your coverage of and editorials/political cartoons about Vietnam veterans' protests at large VA hospitals—of which I was a leader—created the climate for change at two hospitals.
One change here may be in terminology—King Killer rather than Killer King for King/Drew.
As we contemplate how patients feel upon entering King/Drew for medical care—especially after your series—I propose the organizing of patient representatives for each and every inpatient. Clearly patient representation is an accepted service in legitimate hospitals, and the community could respond with volunteers, training, access to legal assistance, if needed, and role models for positive change. I hereby volunteer for such a program.
To do nothing is not an option, I believe.
Ron Bitzer North Hollywood
I read with growing dismay the LA Times articles regarding the pitiful state of the King/Drew Medical Center. The activists using the race card to excuse the inexcusable are doing a great disservice to their communities and their fellow man. It's time for all of us to take responsibility for our own actions and demand accountability from all regardless of race or cultural differences. The victim mentality that continues to prevail only perpetuates the perception of helplessness. Expect the best from others and mostly from ourselves.
Burke, Jackson and other activists need to move forward from their crippling agenda and instead educate their constituents about the consequences of not taking responsibility for their own actions. The L.A. County Supervisors should appoint an outside commission to investigate the root cause for the plagued hospital and have the courage to appoint and enable qualified and accountable administrators and employees regardless of race.
Joann K. Gutierrez
Excellent series of articles, but I have to place some of the blame on the L.A. Times.
I use to read the Times every day, and found myself disgusted with the constant and pervasive interjection of "racism" throughout the paper. This has empowered some MLK hospital supporters with the ability to prevent needed changes to the facility. The Times has failed to lead the community in this respect.
Articles that are willing to look at our communities issues fairly, inquisitively, and without the fear of being called a "racist" are greatly needed. I hope LAT articles of this type will continue. This is what keeps bringing me back to reading the LAT.
Grant Klokeid Victorville
As an operating room nurse for over 20 years, I was appalled to read the articles about King/Drew. It was an excellent and thorough piece of investigative reporting.
The worst part, however, is that the people of the community it serves have accepted substandard medical care that in many cases is criminal malpractice on a daily basis because of racial politics. To me, this is the worst kind of racism.
To believe that the people in that community receive the worst medical care, at the greatest expense, and that to criticize it is "rascist" is outrageous. We wouldn't stand for that level of care where I work, nor should the people of the community served by King/Drew. That's where they should direct their outrage, not at the people trying to fix the problem.
Laurie Colton Registered Nurse, UCLA Medical Center Valencia
I have just completed reading your article on King/Drew Hospital.
Growing up in the South, and seeing first hand the way Blacks were shamefully treated, I am astonished that the local people served by this institution would "put up" with the atrocities you mentioned in your report, simply because of the race issue.
I'm a White male, I grew up poor as a child, from the "wrong" side of the tracks in the 50's, in a single parent home, with a mother who worked as many as three jobs trying to make ends meet.
We, my brothers and I, received our "medical" care, when we were fortunate enough to receive any care at all, from clinics set up for the poor folks.
In those clinics were black folk and white folk alike, with one thing in common, we were poor, and couldn't afford the medical care provided to so called well-to-do folks.
I'm wondering how can these folks [in Los Angeles] use the excuse of race as a reason for allowing innocent people to be harmed by the inability of this facility to safely treat its patients, of any race.
I would be asking those folks, who see this as a race issue, if they would put up with this type treatment from a "white" institution, as it pertains to the treatment of "black" folk, and if not, why then are they putting up with it from a primarily "black" institution, run by primarily black administrators.
I will be following the development of this issue, via your papers articles, and it is my hope and prayer that the good folks in L.A. can resolve this issue for the betterment of all. Not only its people, but for all of us in this country, before another "Watts" episode forces the issue.
Never have I read a story that made me so angry as your excellent five-part series on King/Drew hospital. What is broken is the culture. No change is possible until it is replaced. That means, quite simply, shut the doors, fire the staff, fix the place up, retrain, rehire based on core shared values. Anything less is a waste of time. Who is willing to admit this is the correct medicine and push to do it so that community does not have to roll the dice when going to that hospital?
Bob Phibbs Long Beach
I am an emergency physician who trained at USC, now working in the community. I am impressed by your series of expose and analysis on the troubles at King/Drew. I am proud of the depth of research that you did for your articles. We need this kind of free media in our country!
I have personally had a taste of what King/Drew's nursing staff is like, when I moonlighted in a community hospital that many King/Drew nurses also worked at. I was appalled by the laziness, disrespectful behavior towards doctors and patients, and lack of knowledge. I was shocked to find that these nurses were tolerated, until I met the nursing supervisor, who was the same.
This hospital served the black community and its administration was mostly black. Therefore, the points you made in your fifth article are heartfelt by me. The low standards and expectations set by such a community are detrimental.
Grace Ting, M.D.
I would like to commend the L.A. Times and its writers for the five-part series on King/Drew. It was fair, objective and fact-based. I've been in L.A. for three years and have refused to subscribe to your newspaper because of its tendency to slant the news in favor of its leftist, liberal agenda under the guise of objective journalism. If the rest of your paper held to the same standard as this series of articles, I'm sure you would have many more subscribers.
Tanisha D. White
I am a Black man who has finally seen and read something that has totally appalled me and prompted me to say something. Of course, we can't do anything to the "Five kings" because they have continued to perpetuate the ignorance that is prevalent in their districts to the point where their constituents will only believe what they tell them. This is what happens when you don't read.
I AM OUTRAGED THAT THERE IS EVEN A DISCUSSION ABOUT A MEDICAL INSTITUTION THAT IS ACTUALLY KILLING PEOPLE WITH SUCH A NONCHALANT ATTITUDE.
Have we, as Black people come to the point where we will accept anything Black, regardless of the consequences?
My solutions to the problems are simple and probably unrealistic, but anything is better than what's happening now.
1. Remove everyone that is involved with King Drew, without pay. Let them sue and contest every lawsuit because they all are not without blame. The removal could be called "Institutional Malpractice."
2. Close the entire facility.
3. Provide transportation for all patients to other facilities that need it. . . . Portable facilities could be used for check-ups and minor medical procedures.
4. Clean and repair the facility from top to bottom.
5. While doing number 4, begin interviewing a completely new staff. If this is a teaching hospital, start bringing in 2nd year resident doctors and let them do the work while being monitored by a qualified physician.
6. FORGET WHAT COLOR THIS NEW STAFF WILL BE.
7. Offer any new physician assistance in the payment of his/her loans for medical school if they were to work at King/Drew for 3 or more years. The longer they work there, the more of the loan is repaid.
8. Develop a national board that has no ties to the community whatsoever. Their single mission should be to make King/Drew a quality medical center. This board should consist of people who are administrators in the medical profession.
When people are being killed, one must take drastic measures and I am terribly disheartened that the most damage being done to Black people is done by Black people. There is a tremendous fortune being made by Black politicians under the auspices of making white people feel guilty about what they aren't doing for "us".
There is a reason why nothing is being done. Maybe, just maybe, the "Five Kings" don't want anyone to find out just how many benefits they are receiving from their association with King/Drew. I and my associates can only assume that this is what's happening because NOTHING IS BEING DONE ABOUT PEOPLE WHO ARE BEING KILLED AT A HOSPITAL.
In the Black community where a premium is placed on education, this is a terrible state of affairs.
Victor H. Lesley
I am very glad that L.A. Times reporters have chosen to research the facts regarding the situation at this hospital. I think it is very sad that the African American community simply blame the troubles at the hospital on "racism" and "white supremacy" when this is simply not true and a redundant cop-out.
In the words of Bill Cosby, it is time for the African American community to start taking responsibility for their own actions instead of simply blaming somebody else. The hospital was given its share of money and then some, and as the report suggests, has squandered it. Furthermore, the staff has failed to take care and pride in their work, at the sacrifice of way too many victims.
Public officials may be elected to serve "all of the people", but articles like the King Hospital encourage me to believe some of them choose which of the people they will really serve. The Supervisors chose to serve the small-but-vocal group of activists who defend the hospital, without taking notice of its shortcomings, rather than the whole community it was built to serve. The Times writers attributed that to fear of being labeled "racist" by criticizing the hospital. They need to be willing to take that heat if they have sufficient information to be confident of the criticism. Other community activists behave temperately and also achieve good results, although they may not get the benefits of publicity and therefore may not be "heard" by the Supervisors.
The "community" wants and rightly believes it deserves high quality medical service. That can be provided in a black run hospital. The idea that the hospital can't do better or should not be subject to valid criticism because it is perceived to be a "black" institution is, itself, a racist-sounding notion. Black people achieve high quality administration and medical practice in other settings. It sounds like neither was expected and rewarded at King-Drew. If doctors, nurses, and administrators aren't even required to show up every working day, they are not going to do their jobs well. The noise has more to do with building political capital than with building a fine hospital. I bet the Black and Hispanic people served by King-Drew Hospital would rather have a reliable source of high quality medical care from well trained and dedicated Black and Hispanic professionals than to receive poor or life threatening attention from unmotivated or unqualified staff members retained only because they are Black.
Suzanne L. Carpenter
I've seen it time and again: Micro scrutiny of hospitals with predominantly African-American staff members. Accentuation of the negative. Old-fashioned sensationalism at its worst. A colleague calls it "Yellow Journalism," and I concur.
Use this same lens, and same scrutiny, on Cedars-Sinai or Kaiser, why don't you?
Why don't you? Because it's just not as interesting, or sensational, as talking about how bad the "poor, colored-folks" hospital is, is it? And, it won't sell as many papers.
Brenda J. Smith
As a retired L.A. County/USC Medical Center employee I have been interested in the happenings at the Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital from its inception. The powerful L.A. Times series concerning the problems at the hospital should have woken up the entire greater Los Angeles County community by now to the problems existing within its boundaries.
It is not only the delivery of health care. That is only one aspect of far deeper sociological problems which existed, and still exist, in the area served by that hospital. Depending for hospital staffing from the community surrounding the hospital was ludicrous. The education system in the area was, and still is, woefully lacking in the basics, i.e. an inadequate educational system both in personnel and physical plants; family support for children was, and still is, missing; social services are still underfunded.
A Civil Service system for employment which rears up if anyone needs to be fired but which was, and still is, ignored when nepotism or other forms of cronyism were brought into play is another aspect of the problem.
The Times is to be congratulated for bringing the entire situation to light, not only by describing the horrendous happenings but also by analyzing (in this morning's edition) the whys and wherefores, and above all the whos. Now it remains to be seen whether any effective and far reaching action will actually result. Any action will be unpopular in that area. And as the body which oversees all aspects of the situation in the south county, the Board of Supervisors&whose members owe their positions to the will of the taxpayers&has its work cut out. Is it up to the challenges? Time (not too much, we hope) will tell.
Gillian Olechno Seal Beach
The hospital needs to be shut down and the Board of Supervisors need to resign.
Thank you for your King/Drew coverage. It is an appalling and horrifying story. I am deeply grateful to the Times for having the vision and the courage to bring the story out to the public. With the support of the public outcry that should follow such a story, I hope we will see permanent steps taken to rectify this frightening hospital.
Nena Davis South Pasadena
I have read the five-part King/Drew series in the L.A. Times and wanted to commend the authors and researchers for their hard work to objectively uncover the horrible events that have taken place at the King/Drew Hospital.
The articles were well-written and clearly provided factual evidence to support the ultimate conclusion & an incredibly inept hospital staff was able to maintain business as usual, thereby causing unnecesary physical pain and mental suffering to possibly hundreds of former patients and their families because the County Board of Supervisors were unwilling or unable to communicate to the community the fact that gross negligence was regularly occuring at the hospital.
I applaud L.A. Times for allowing the authors and researchers to dedicate their time to preparing the King/Drew articles and publishing the articles at a time when the issues brought up in the articles need to be brought to light the most.
Your series on the King/Drew hospital is the best piece of journalism I have ever read. It was fair, unbiased, thorough, fascinating, and a compelling read from start to finish. Congratulations to your team and the journalism awards will certainly follow and are well deserved.
Sadly, the reality of the problems are an indictment of all concerned. Hopefully, bringing the whole truth out into the light of day, as the Times has now done, will allow the community to accept the facts and deal directly with the reality of the problems without the specter of racism which has been an impediment to a cure for decades.
The supervisors need to accept the fact that their failed leadership has not been able to enact change and that they now need to bring in and empower outside professionals who know how to turnaround problematic hospitals. They need to get out of the way and sell this solution to the community.
An independent turnaround professional consulting firm needs to be hired and empowered to drive a full scale solution to this problem with a guarantee that the supervisors will not interfere with their mandate and will support this change with the all the constituents in the community. Until the supervisors come clean publicly in their failings with this hospital, and get the support of the community in accepting the reality and the proposed solution, King/Drew will continue to serve the community in the manner they have for decades and the community will deserve what they get, a hospital that deserved its nickname, "Killer King".