Health Lead Story Local News Lynwood Press West Edition

Ridley-Thomas seeks trauma center for South L.A.

LOS ANGELES — The Board of Supervisors voted June 30 to look at ways to bring a Level I trauma center back to South Los Angeles.

At the recommendation of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the board directed staffers to come up with options, including a timeline, within 90 days.

“Ensuring quality trauma care is a priority for me,” Ridley-Thomas said. “We need more information and analysis to get a complete picture of the county’s trauma care needs.”

That includes trauma prevention strategies in “hot-spot areas with persistently high trauma mortality rates,” he added.

South Los Angeles accounts for 20 percent of trauma-related deaths, though it is home to only 10 percent of the county’s population, according to Ridley-Thomas.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital, scheduled to open this summer, will have a 21-bed emergency department to treat serious, life-threatening conditions not caused by traumatic injuries.

The director of the county’s hospital system said his department is committed to placing the most extensive resources in the areas of greatest need.

“South L.A. had a Level I trauma unit in the past because of the high rate of trauma in that section of the county and we want to restore that capability,” Dr. Mitchell Katz said.

The King/Drew Medical Center trauma center was closed in an effort by county officials to save the troubled hospital, which was ultimately shut down in 2007 following several patient deaths due to substandard care.

Earlier this month, Katz proposed an allocation for Measure B funds — approved by voters in 2002 to support trauma care — designed to reimburse costs incurred treating indigent and uninsured patients. The proposal would have paid out roughly $40 million to non-county trauma centers.

The action by the board requires Katz to return to the board with additional analysis of trauma center data before any funding allocation is approved.

Level I trauma centers are costly to operate as they must have surgeons and trauma specialists available around the clock, as well as the resources to handle high volumes of patients.

However, care at a trauma center lowers the risk of patient death by 25 percent versus treatment at non-trauma centers, according to a 2006 study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Washington School of Medicine.