L.A. Trauma Center Faces Closure
Oct. 27, 2004
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A group trying to prevent closure of the trauma center at an inner-city medical center filed a discrimination lawsuit Wednesday, alleging the county is trying to dismantle the troubled hospital.
The nonprofit group Friends of Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center Inc., which includes patients, doctors and community residents, accused Los Angeles County and its health department of violating the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause and the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as well as Medicare and Medicaid regulations and various state laws.
The hospital and trauma center ``have not been dealt with fairly nor have the racial minorities they serve,'' attorney Mark Ravis said in a statement.
The lawsuit asks the court to bar the closure of the trauma center, prevent further hospital cuts and restore services already eliminated.
The suit contends layoffs, transfers and cuts so far have ``systematically dismantled the medical care safety net,'' resulting in delays of service. It also contends a decision has already been made to close the trauma center, though a hearing isn't scheduled until next month.
``On the first day that the center is closed, there is the very real, very immediate danger that patients will die,'' the lawsuit warns.
The hospital opened in the wake of the 1965 Watts riot, and serves a mainly black and Hispanic population. The region is so plagued by violence that the trauma center is used to train military doctors.
The hospital has come under scrutiny after federal inspectors found five patients died from negligence last year. Another death came Oct. 7 when a nurse turned down an audio alarm on a monitor and failed to notice when a patient went into cardiac arrest.
The hospital has been ordered to correct deficiencies or lose federal funds. It also faces the threat of losing approval from a national accreditation commission.