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L.A. County-USC hospital defended as Board of Supervisors is warned about growing health services deficit

May 18, 2010 |  2:03 pm

Photo: The new County-USC hospital, a state-of-the-art, $1.02-billion facility, opened in 2008. Credit: Brian Vander Brug/Los Angeles Times Supervisor Gloria Molina on Tuesday defended Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center against allegations made by an emergency room patient who last week filed a complaint about lengthy waits, privacy violations and other issues at the Boyle Heights hospital.

Molina's comments came as county health officials told the Board of Supervisors they expect the county Department of Health Services to face a $204.2-million deficit for the current fiscal year that ends on June 30, and a $599.5-million deficit for the next fiscal year.

Officials are hoping to offset the deficit through additional state and federal funding. But even if the extra funding is secured, the county will need to dip into a reserve fund, officials said. Supervisors asked county officials for a report back in 30 days on specific steps that will be taken to address the department’s growing deficit.
Molina, speaking before the budget briefing, said she was stunned to see that the County-USC complaint alleged a nurse gave 35 hours as an average wait in the emergency room. County health officials say the average wait time in the emergency room is nine hours.

“I was shocked when I got the letter ... because I knew we had statistics that tell us otherwise,” Molina said.

At the same time, Molina noted that County-USC is so overcrowded that the hospital has been transferring on average 150 to 180 patients each month to other hospitals. And, she said, she knows that there are patients who wait so long they leave without being treated in the emergency room.

“We do have patients who leave and don’t get service, but, very frankly, I do know we’re attentive to anybody who walks in on a regular basis,” Molina said.

Carol Meyer, the county health services department’s chief network officer, told supervisors County-USC was providing excellent care.

“We are doing an excellent job and no patient is in danger,” Meyer said.

The complaint was filed by a healthcare professional who sought help at County-USC for abdominal pain but said she left after eight hours to go to another hospital.

While refuting many of the allegations contained in the complaint, county officials said last week that they had discovered some computer terminals were turned so that the monitors could be seen from waiting areas, creating potential patient privacy violations. They said the problem was being addressed.

-- Rong-Gong Lin II at the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration

Photo: The new County-USC hospital, a state-of-the-art, $1.02-billion facility, opened in 2008. Credit: Brian Vander Brug/Los Angeles Times