New MLK hospital plans big community outreach
August 24, 2011 | The Bulletin (serving Compton) | Front Page | Chris Frost | Bulletin Staff Writer
Artist's rendering of the new facility. Photo courtesy of MLK-LA
Work has begun on the new Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital and Los Angeles County is looking ahead with an aggressive agenda to make it a viable part of the community. The new Martin Luther King Jr.-Los Angeles (MLK-LA) Hospital is scheduled to open in late 2013 and will provide in-patient primary care, basic emergency services and health education and outreach services that are typical of a community hospital.
The new facility will be built on the site of the original King-Drew Hospital, which opened in 1972 to meet the needs of a community that was underserved. The facility closed in 2007 because it lost accreditation after receiving repeated citations from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services.
“Those issues are in the past, and nobody involved in this project had anything to do with that situation,” said MLK-LA interim CEO Melayne Yocum. “We will move forward with transparency, and residents will see that our efforts are in the best interests of the community.”
MLK-LA interim CEO Melayne Yocum
The new facility will be licensed for a maximum of 135 beds, she said, but will probably only use 120 beds when it opens.
Los Angeles County will own the facility, which will be run by a private operator. The hospital will be opened as Martin Luther King, Jr.-Los Angeles (MLK-LA) Healthcare Corporation, a nonprofit entity with a board of directors consisting of two members appointed by the county, two by the University of California and three appointed by both. The nonprofit corporation is searching for an operator to run the hospital.
The county will provide ongoing funding to keep the hospital running. UC will provide staffing of medical personnel. The operator of the hospital will not necessarily be a nonprofit. “It could be a profitmaking entity,” county CEO William Fujioka said, “but I don't think there will be a lot of money to be made at the hospital.”
“The public-private partnership approach we are taking is prudent, feasible, scalable and potentially catalytic in ways that improve the health care outcomes in the region,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said in 2009 when the plan was announced. “I commend the governor, the UC and County CEO for their hard and diligent work, and the board of supervisors for their critical support. I am hopeful that any remaining details can be successfully resolved in a timely manner. Time is of the essence as communities with very deserving patients impatiently await the reopening of this important medical center.”
The group hopes to have an official groundbreaking ceremony in October depending on the county's schedule, Yocum said, but construction has already begun.
“We are just getting started,” she said. “We have no employees and no offices. Currently we are working on our employment projections, and in the near future we'll be able to talk about how many jobs we will bring to the area.”
A needs assessment was completed in 2008 and has recently been updated. The current study showed that an emergency room, women's services and general medical surgical operation would best serve the community.
“Our primary service area is a five-mile circle around the former MLK hospital, and we are reaching out to different community organizations and schools to introduce ourselves,” Community Outreach Specialist Michael Chee said. “We've already begun that outreach and we will get more aggressive as we get closer to our grand opening.”
The hospital will not duplicate services, Yocum said, but it is common for a community hospital to offer educational programs. She said this will play a large part in its overall success rate.
“Wouldn't it be wonderful if we didn't need to build another tower to meet the needs of the community?” Yocum said. “That would mean our educational programs have worked and patients are not dealing with things like diabetes, obesity, lung cancer and heart disease.”
She said the focus at the start will be to help the community understand what the vision for the hospital will be. The hospital will always be there to provide care to those who need it, Yocum said, but living a healthy lifestyle and staying out of the hospital should be the first choice.
“We want to be the resource for health in the community,” she said. “We are all going to have to think differently about going to the hospital.”
Yocum said the MLK legacy will remain in the name of the hospital, but the full name will remind everyone that the hospital can be a source of inspiration for people who want to live a healthy lifestyle.
“We have a toll-free community number and a website that area residents can access to find out more about the types of services that we will offer,” Chee said.
For more information about the new MLK Hospital, call 866-532-3959. Information on the web is located at www.mlkcommunityhospital.com.