Pact may short-change patients

The Associated Press
Monday September 11, 2000

LOS ANGELES — A compromise to rebuild Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center with fewer hospital beds is raising concern that more uninsured residents will go without medical care. 

State and county lawmakers Sept. 1 ended a four-year feud over rebuilding the hospital in East Los Angeles, which was damaged during the 1994 Northridge earthquake. It will have 600 beds, down from the current 770. 

Even with its current capacity, however, the hospital turns away about 150 uninsured patients a day, said Dr. Demetrios Demetriades, director of trauma and critical care at the medical center. 

The reduced number of beds is expected to worsen that problem in a county that has nearly 3 million uninsured residents. 

“We are going to have a big disaster on our hands unless we find another solution,” Demetriades told the Los Angeles Times. 

About $820 million will be spent rebuilding the hospital. An 80-bed, $47 million annex is planned for Baldwin Park, about 16 miles away. 

Other health experts said the annex will not make up for a smaller County-USC hospital, especially with public and private clinics closing throughout Los Angeles. 

“They are rationing care by making it 600 beds,” said Rodolfo Diaz, executive director of the Community Health Foundation in East Los Angeles.