King-Harbor should stay open
July 3, 2007
Re "Why King-Harbor must die," Opinion, July 1
Robert M. Wachter makes a compelling argument to let Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital die. However, he omits two important considerations:
• What happens to the 47,000 annual emergency room visits that are presently handled by King-Harbor?
• Notwithstanding the egregiously bad handling of many cases, there must be a lot of people who have been helped at King-Harbor.
In spite of all the pitiful, inexcusable blunders that have brought the hospital to its present brink of extinction, wouldn't it be better to keep trying to fix it? So long as it is up and operating, King-Harbor will still help many of our citizens.
The closure of King-Harbor would result in a cruelty equal to that experienced by Edith Rodriguez. Instead of just one person, an entire community would be placed in peril and all residents of Los Angeles County would suffer.
A "good death" must include immediate replacement of lost hospital services and a change in hospital ownership, creating a culture of collaboration and the involvement of the community.
Replace the "cancerous culture" with a "culture of collaboration." This "King-Harbor must die" declaration reflects a me-first culture among academic medical centers, especially because none has stepped up to offer genuine assistance so that a greater harm does not occur to the community of South L.A., which has huge healthcare needs.
ROBERT A. BELTRAN MD
Latino Med Policy Institute
Wachter's essay is long on rhetoric but short on concrete analysis. I kept waiting for him to explain what made it impossible to correct the problems at the hospital (Never enough money? Incompetent oversight? Lack of political will? Impossibility of ever finding enough good administrators and staff?). Instead, all he provided were metaphors likening the hospital to a terminally ill patient. Metaphors are nice ways to make broad clarifications of an issue, but they are also misleading about specifics, because an institution is not a human being and can't be treated as if it were. Wachter seems to want us to accept the inevitability of the hospital's death without explaining why it is inevitable.
King-Harbor is an adequate assemblage of bricks and mortar to provide housing for healthcare delivery. It is the leadership and political protections that have trashed it. Fire everyone and start over with competent, compassionate, mission-directed healthcare providers and support staff. It is that easy. There is nothing wrong with the hospital, just the people running it.
VICTOR L. KOVNER MD