MLK Harbor Hospital Cited for Mishandling Radioactive Waste

Miriam Hernandez, KABC-TV (Los Angeles), August 2, 2007

More trouble for besieged Martin Luther King Junior Harbor Hospital—it is cited for breaking radiation safety rules. It’s a potentially dangerous discovery.

If the hospital receives too many violations, it will lose the critical federal funding it needs to stay open. Concerns are emerging now from new quarters—a whistleblower from the District Attorney’s office, and doctors from the community.

The picketers in front of the hospital on Thursday come with credentials—community doctors, some who work at Drew University and at one time helped operate MLK. They say consistent failures are the fault of county officials at the top.

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They are calling on the federal government to take over the facility, which they say is not likely to pass the inspection currently underway.

And before the inspection is done, there notice now of 18 violations posted in the hospital involving radioactive material. A lapse was uncovered when an alarm sounded at the Downey Recycling Plant. Hazardous radioactive material was detected in the diaper of a patient who had been exposed to low-level radioactivity as part of his treatment.

Further inspection found gaps in testing for radiation contamination at the hospital, records on waste disposal were spotty, and some staff were not adequately trained.

Dr. Ernie Smith says the responsibility for radioactive waste fell through the cracks when MLK dropped its affiliation with Drew University.

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