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Flu absences prompted Los Angeles hospital to close emergency room

September 25, 2009 |  4:27 pm
A Los Angeles hospital was forced to close its emergency room earlier this month because of understaffing after several nurses became sick with the flu, authorities said.

Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center, at 2231 S. Western Ave., just south of the Santa Monica Freeway, voluntarily closed its four-bed emergency room Sept. 18 after a surprise visit by state health inspectors, who found that two of three emergency room nurses were out sick, according to hospital CEO John Fenton.

The 213-bed hospital has a staff of 700, but has few nurses trained to work in the emergency room, which was added two years ago, Fenton said. The hospital is owned by Tustin-based Pacific Health Corp.

After the closure, hospital officials improved backup staffing plans and now expect to meet with state inspectors to reopen the emergency room Monday, Fenton said. In the interim, county officials have been notified to divert ambulances to other local hospitals, said Ralph Montano, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Health.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske