Tracy Weber and Jack Leonard, Los Angeles Times, July 13
A seriously ill patient died at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center after nurses failed to respond “for an extended period” to audio alarms signaling his distress — the seventh death in two years in which staffers have virtually ignored vital sign monitors, Los Angeles County health officials said Tuesday.
The incident, which took place in March, was one of four reported to the county Board of Supervisors in the last week in which patients allegedly received questionable care. Three of the cases occurred over four days last month.
The disclosures come eight months after the county, under pressure from federal regulators, pledged millions of dollars to hire a turnaround firm to overhaul King/Drew. Although most county supervisors offered little public comment on the news, it could strengthen the board’s interest, already expressed by a majority, in handing the beleaguered public hospital near Watts over to a private company.
“Each week, we ask these questions and hear of more horror stories,” said Supervisor Mike Antonovich. “The board is in the position of hammering mercury to the wall. The sooner we can start the outsourcing process, the better it will be for patients at the facility.”
“It’s just one thing after another, with the eyes of the world on this hospital,” said Supervisor Don Knabe. “It is outrageous. How many times can you say the word publicly? You can yell, scream, jump up and down, but things don’t seem to change.”
In the March incident, a patient in the cardiac unit was attached to a monitor so that his vital signs could be tracked constantly. According to a health department memo sent to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, none of the four nurses on the unit responded when alarms signaled that the patient was in distress. By the time one of them noticed the patient’s condition, he could not be resuscitated.