The Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital in Los Angeles seems to be lurching from crisis to crisis.
Only a few days ago it was subjected to withering criticism in the media when a woman was left to die in its emergency room. And on Thursday the Los Angeles county officials were told by the Californian state government that the license of the hospital could be revoked.
The state Department of Health Services has never before threatened such a penalty against King-Harbor and, has not taken such an action against a hospital since 2004.
The Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor hospital, operated by the Los Angeles County department of Health Services, is located near crime hotspots, and serves poor and minorities in South Los Angeles.
Predictably it has been going to seed for sometime and the federal government's response has been to threaten it with pulling crucial Medicare and Medi-Cal funding. Now the state government too seems to have joined the vicious game.
Los Angeles County supervisors were notified by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office today that the hospital would be sent a formal document outlining the reasons for revocation by next week. Schwarzenegger, who has been meeting with community leaders about the hospital's future, was personally involved in the decision, state officials said. It marks a shift for the governor, who had urged the federal government to continue funding the hospital in recent months in hopes it would reform.
In the last 3 1/2 years, King-Harbor has made significant changes, including closing its once-busy trauma center, disciplining hundreds of workers, slashing services and reducing the number of inpatient beds from more than 200 to 48, all in an attempt to please those holding the purse strings.
The media too has been unsparing in its criticism, almost rooting for its closure, not pausing to think who would stand to be affected most if the hospital does close down.
Across the US many public hospitals in rural areas are pulling down the shutters on grounds of economy, hitting the poor the most.
The latest move, however, is subject to appeal -- a process that could take a year. And the state suggested in a letter to county health director Bruce Chernof today that it could rescind its action if the hospital was able to show that it met state and federal standards.
"We're really worried that the people will think the hospital closes tomorrow," said Sandra Shewry, director of the state health services agency. "It doesn't mean that. Services continue while this process plays out. The best end point is for that hospital to come into compliance with those standards."