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County formally dedicates new MLK COmmunity Hospital

WILLOWBROOK — A host of community leaders led by county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas took part in a formal dedication ceremony Friday for the recently opened Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital.

“It’s a new day at MLK,” said Ridley-Thomas, who led the charge for the medical facility. “What does it mean? It means delivering on a promise.”

The $210 million, 131-bed hospital opened for business July 7 in unincorporated Willowbrook south of Watts. The hospital is part of a $650 million medical campus that already included outpatient and urgent care centers. Those centers have been operating in place of Martin Luther King-Drew Medical Center, which was closed in August 2007 after a series of well-publicized lapses in medical care.

While the old King-Drew Medical Center, which opened in 1972, was run by the county, the new hospital is being managed by a governing authority overseen by health care, business and law professionals focused exclusively on the facility.

MLK Community Hospital has 93 medical/surgical beds, 20 intensive care beds and 18 obstetrical beds. The medical staff includes six hospital-based physician groups. It will offer emergency and general medical care, along with surgical, labor and delivery services.

Hospital officials said the facility will serve “1.35 million residents of South Los Angeles regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.”

“I want to convey heartfelt congratulations to the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital staff, the board of directors and the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services for all of the tireless work they have invested,” Ridley-Thomas said last month.

When it opened, Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro, called the hospital a “new beginning” for health care in the area.

“For the last eight years, the communities I represent in Watts and Willowbrook have been struggling without a nearby hospital — much like they were when my father led the efforts to build the original hospital in the 1960s,” said Hahn, whose late father, Kenneth Hahn, was a county supervisor for 40 years and was highly popular in his Second District.

“I have always thought that South L.A. shouldn’t be different from Beverly Hills when it comes to health care and I am encouraged that these families will again have access to life-saving medical care they need at a hospital they can trust in their community,” Hahn said.