Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital History

The County of Los Angeles has long recognized the need to provide community-based healthcare to the underserved population of South Los Angeles. Below is the history of medical care in this community.


Watts Riots

Governor Pat Brown commissioned a group to study the cause of the unrest. The commission, headed by John A. McCone, submitted a report that identified issues including the lack of adequate, accessible medical facilities within the community. The County of Los Angeles took action and committed to building a hospital.


Originally named Southeast General Hospital, the 461-bed, general acute care hospital, opened in South Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, it was renamed Martin Luther King, Jr. General Hospital after the famed civil rights leader.

Operated by the County of Los Angeles, it was one of the few hospitals that served the poorest and most underserved residents in the region.


After a long-standing history of quality and operational challenges, the facility, renamed MLK-Harbor Hospital, lost its accreditation from The Joint Commission and certification from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services (CMS).

MLK-Harbor Hospital closed as a general acute care hospital. South Los Angeles and the surrounding communities lost critical access to medical and surgical care as well as vital emergency services.

Local hospitals in and around the area absorbed MLK-Harbor’s patients for inpatient care. They received funding from the County to treat those patients. But these other hospitals were not located within a convenient distance of the community that MLK-Harbor served.

The County, and in particular Second District County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, stayed committed to making critical healthcare services available to the residents of South Los Angeles in their neighborhood. They pledged to open a new state-of-the-art hospital in the community that would provide the highest quality and most technologically advanced community-based medical care.

MLK-Harbor Hospital was converted into the Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center to provide outpatient services.


On October 12, SB 474, the South Los Angeles Medical Services Preservation Fund was signed into law, ensuring that area healthcare facilities would receive funds to meet the needs of uninsured residents in the community.


In spring 2008, the County approached then-Governor Schwarzenegger and the Regents of the University of California to ask for help in opening a new hospital in the area.


In April, the County and the University of California together sponsored Assembly Bill 2599 to ensure the financial stability of the new hospital.


The County of Los Angeles and Regents of the University of California enter into a “Coordination Agreement,” where

  • The County agrees to construct and to furnish the Hospital
  • The County agrees to provide supplemental funding for Medi-Cal and indigent care
  • The University of California agrees to provide staffing for the Hospital

Both sides agree that new, independent, not for profit corporation will operate the Hospital In August, the County of Los Angeles and the University of California appointed seven board members to the nonprofit Martin Luther King, Jr. Los Angeles Healthcare Corporation (MLK-LA), which was charged with operating the new hospital. MLK-LA committed to implementing the necessary resources to create high quality, sustainable, coordinated healthcare delivery in South Los Angeles.

On September 23, Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 2599 into law.

Construction on the new hospital began.


Led by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the County held a series of community meetings in South Los Angeles to discuss the master plan for the area.

Hundreds of residents, civic leaders, business owners and health care advocates attended the meetings, asked questions and provided input about the new developments. In addition to building the new hospital and maintaining the other healthcare facilities, the community discussed including mixed-use retail space, medical office space, connected community gardens, safe pedestrian walkways and recreational facilities to promote wellness and physical activity.


The new hospital is named Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital to reflect its commitment to community-based medicine and to honor the legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


On January 21, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus master plan.


In August, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved MLKCH’s lease and funding agreement.

2015: Notable dates at Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital


MLKCH participates in MLK Day Parade


MLKCH hosts first onsite Nurses Job fair with more than 200 attendees


Surgeon General Vivek Murthy visits MLKCH as part of his “Listening Sessions” Across the U.S. MLKCH participates in King-Drew Magnet High School’s Career Day

MLKCH passes Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) inspection by CDPH

MLKCH hosts 2nd Nurse Job Fair on campus

MLKCH hosts Empowerment Congress

100th employee hired at MLKCH


MLKCH passes LA County Fire Marshal inspection
First Medical Staff elected; Dr. Walid Ghurabi elected Chief of Staff

MLKCH receives licensure from California Department of Public Health


MLKCH hosts area spiritual leaders as part of the hospital’s
“Breakfast with CEO” series

MLKCH celebrates Nurses Week/Cinco de Mayo

MLK Café (Cafeteria) opens


MLKCH receives accreditation from The Joint Commission

MLKCH hosts Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for hospital tour

MLKCH hosts Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services agency representatives for hospital tour as part of the hospital’s
“Breakfast with CEO” series

MLKCH Gift Shop opens

MLKCH begins to offer scheduled public tours

July 7

MLKCH provides services to the public

August 7

MLKCH Dedication Ceremony