Its not a sexy story, but dont let anyone sucker
you into using bad info on the hospital-closings crisis.
A quick pre-note before we explore the REAL facts behind the
emerging mega-story about why so many hospitals are closing
down all over California, but especially in Los Angeles.
The pre-note is really a post script to say that the debacle
we witnessed the past couple of weeks involving the phony
documents and the CBS/Dan Rather story on George Bushs
National Guard service is effectively over, for now.
You cant beat a dead horse, but with the miracles of
political medicine (spin) today, CBS and Rather WILL live
to see another day, though it will be a while. Viewers and
others do not like to be lied to or played for patsies. However,
because we live in an age where there is ALWAYS somebody available
to stand up for ANYBODY on ANY issue, no matter how misguided
that support may seem, whatever shame should fall upon the
House of the Black Eye has probably already begun to evaporate,
It will be a while before some of us will ever trust CBS
and for others, they will NEVER return to that network for
serious, quality news programming. And it SHOULD be that way.
The CBS folks burned themselves and let us never forget what
such sloppiness yields. Yet, there will always be the one-eyed
partisan monsters that saw nothing wrong in what CBS did and
they never will. Just make sure you never cast a vote for
a member of that lot or you will screw up this country beyond
anything we have seen to date. Yes, politics is a sick business
and it has never been so close to a comma as it is in the
presidential race today.
Speaking of sickness (hows that for a transition line?),
we have to be extra careful these days about where we are
when we become ill or get injured, because we never know how
far we have to go to find a REAL hospital. The other night,
my wife and I visited a restaurant about 15 miles from home.
As we approached the area, the main thoroughfare was closed
off by police because of a major accident right in front of
I thought to myself how lucky the accident victims were to
be directly in front of a hospital with an emergency room
at such a critical time. Imagine how shocked I was, as we
approached the area, to see a Life Flight helicopter lifting
off the boulevard. I asked a police officer why a chopper
was needed when there was a large hospital 100 feet away.
He told me the hospital had closed its emergency room a few
months ago so the chopper would have to try and find a hospital
willing to accept the accident victims.
Unfortunately, as serious and difficult as the hospital and
emergency room closures have become, there are those who are
trying to hood-wink the news media into dumping the majority
of the blame for the closings on one issue, illegal immigration,
Its a wedge issue, as we say, a hot button
in the world of politics, but a check of the REAL facts shows
the closure issue is much more complex.
I recently had the pleasure of spending some time with a
man whose job it is to try and keep hospitals open and I learned
the WHOLE truth behind the incredible increase in hospital
and emergency room closures. He is Jim Lott, the Executive
Vice President of the Healthcare Association of Southern California.
He says the root of the closure problem is that too many
people needing medical care do not have health insurance.
Along with rising medical costs, a tremendous shortage of
nurses and sky-rocketing malpractice insurance costs, hospitals
are being strangled by dynamics that didnt exist 20
years ago. And what percentage of the problem is caused by
illegal immigrants seeking medical care, or having babies,
as immigrant critics like to tell us? Lott says it is about
20% of the problem and he cautions against focusing too much
attention on it as the root cause. He says to do so is to
waste valuable time and resources on addressing the totality
of the problem.
Although a lack of health insurance is the MAJOR problem
here, there apparently is no one in the world of politics
power willing to do anything about it. One in every four in
L.A County is uninsured. Medical bills can run as high as
a quarter million dollars per patient, depending on the health
issue or wound, and the length of time in the hospital. Thats
why we are hearing about astronomical losses in the hundreds
of millions of dollars that are forcing the emergency room
and hospital closures.
Every 58 seconds in Los Angeles, paramedics are called to
an emergency and there are too few ambulances, too many victims
and not enough hospitals, to handle the tremendous overload.
When they roll on a call and find they have to transport someone
on the verge of dying, they literally have to shop
for a hospital willing to take their trauma patients. Availability
of care is more limited than ever and when you factor in the
additional travel times to available hospitals, other sick
or injured patients are suffering even more and waiting for
Between traditional sickness, accidents, and the continued
onslaught of gang shootings, we are in deep trouble. We have
a broken system and we lack the political will in California,
at the local, regional and stated level, to solve it.
Emergency services and a trauma center are no longer there
when you need them at the drop of a hat. We are talking about
a crisis fueled not only by a lack of health insurance, but
one where the majority of those affected are not just the
poor, destitute, and illegal immigrant, but rather, middle
We need to double our efforts to tell our audiences about
the critical condition of our medical facilities. At the same
town, however, we must make sure we are doing everything possible
to alert Joe and Sally Six-pack to the ugly reality of their
medical care system.
Lets make sure we tell the entire story and ask the
hard questions about fixing the broken trauma care system
of the people in politics. For example, too many in the media
have tip-toed around the issue of the pending closure of the
massive King/Drew Medical Center in South L.A. This place
has been in comma for decades, but the L.A. County Board of
Supervisors has never been pressed to take care of business
and fix the place. Therefore, its been ignored.
Now, the majority of the Board has met in secret to plan
how to avoid the publics scorn over the mess at King/Drew.
We CAN and must credit those in the media who have covered
this story tight and pursued the facts like a pit bull. But
we must also report on the largess of those who never address
a major public policy issue until a gun is put to their heads.
As a society, we now face the prospects of returning to a
1950s level of service when we become ill or injured.
A total collapse of the system is not far away, and we risk
turning L.A. and much of California into a real third-world
if politicians can find cover from the news media.
I know there are those who say L.A. is already a third-world
city because of illegal immigration and its melting pot characteristics,
so how could it get worse. Does the movie Blade Runner
ring a bell?