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HOSPITALS/POLICY: King-Drew and the wider issues of care for the poor

It looks like it might be the end for King Drew, or as it’s known now, King–Harbor. Some of the LA board of supervisors are in favor of closing the hospital immediately, and yesterday the State of California initiated proceedings to revoke its license. No one can pretend that this hasn’t been coming for quite some time.  A couple of years back, a long series in the LA Times found incredible graft, mismanagement, and corruption and appallingly poor care quality at King Drew. Given the hospital’s origins after the Watts riots of the 1960s, and its special place in the African-American downtown community, doing anything to King-Drew has always been politically charged issue. But after the recent incidents, particularly the one where the woman was left to die on the floor of the emergency department waiting room while nurses ignored her, and cleaning staff swept up around her, the hospital seems to have finally run out of defenders.

On the other hand, this is emblematic of a wider problem in American health care—how do you provide care to the poor in a system where there is no universal coverage or systemic primary care?  Bob Sillen, who now runs California’s prison health care system, but used to run Santa Clara Valley Medical Center used to remark that if there wasn’t a County Hospital in which to showcase how the poor were treated it would be impossible to get any attention on to the issue.

So it is my hope that as we enter a period of concern about the future of universal insurance coverage, we don’t abandon the extremely limited safety net that is in place for the poor while we all focus on fixing the wider systemic problems.

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Howard SunMaryStella BaskombJim Recent comment authors
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Howard Sun
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Howard Sun

Chinese government officials are striving deal with recent reports and statistics on the overheated economy, high unemployment rates, and rapidly aging population. China has the world’s largest elderly population, with 148 million people over 60 years old, a figure that predicted to reach 492 million by 2050. In 2006 the proportion of China’s population which was over the age of 60 was 12.7 percent. The aging process is speeded up especially in the cities as the one-child policy was adopted in the 1970s. Since the economic boom, more couples now tend to postpone pregnancy or not to have babies at… Read more »

Mary
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Mary

I agree with Jim. Harbour Hospital is indeed government funded and has a very long history of problems. Mr Moore conveniently left this fact out of his movie. He made it seem that all American hospitals are bad and that other healthcare systems work well. Moore has not presented the complete story about the other systems (None are as perfect as Moore has reported). I’ve actually had Canadian nurses in response to “Sicko” tell me how terrible the American healthcare system is, but these nurses usually have not even worked in the US. Often they have very little experience outside… Read more »

Stella Baskomb
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Stella Baskomb

“woman was left to die on the floor of the emergency department waiting room while nurses ignored her, and cleaning staff swept up around her”
In the brave new world, the cleaning crew would administer first aid until the resident coffee break was over.

Jim
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Jim

Sir: that hospital was run by government. Did it ever dawn on you that if government ran all U.S. health care operations, the same thing would be repeated? You and Mr. Michael Moore ought to think more carefully — the public does.