Shut Up and Listen!
LAist didn't attend Monday's special Board of Supervisor's hearing to discuss the proposed closure of Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center's trauma unit, but our ears are still ringing from all the shouting.According to the Los Angeles Times, Representative Maxine Waters has been at the forefront of organizing the community's response to the proposed closure.
Staff writers Jia-Rui Chong, Solomon Moore and Steve Hymon reported, "Monday's hearing at King/Drew Magnet High School was called by the Board of Supervisors, but it became clear early that Waters was running the show. As the roughly six-hour hearing came to a close, she once again grabbed the spotlight. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky was in the midst of a motion when Waters returned to the podium, demanded to know what time the supervisors meeting was on Tuesday, then turned to the crowd and reminded them to go to it...Yaroslavsky protested to her that he was still trying to speak. But she kept talking as if he hadn't. "
Closing the trauma unit is an emotional issue for the South Central community (especially since the King/Drew center is a symbol of community pride as well as a resource), but we wish both sides would listen to one another. It's clear that on the one hand the troubled trauma unit, not the hospital itself, is targeted for closure for the safety of the community. The Times says, "Officials said shuttering the unit, which served about 2,150 of the most severely injured patients last year, is a crucial step in the effort to reform the Willowbrook hospital, which has been beset with patient-care problems, including several deaths.
Waters and other critics say that closing the trauma unit would hurt the quality of medical care in South Los Angeles. They believe that the county can fix King/Drew's problems without such drastic action."
In addition, Waters and others counter that the real issue is the manner in which the Board of Supervisors have been communicating with the community. Today's Los Angeles Times editorial, which incidentally supports closing the trauma unit, sums up the community's position:
The perspective of the largely African American audience, to whom King/Drew is as much a symbol as a hospital, was summed up by a sign: "Don't disrespect or underestimate us."...The supervisors have not yet voted to close the trauma unit, at least not publicly. But they announced plans to do so in September after meeting in secret, a dismayingly habitual practice and a probable violation of state law. Feeling disrespected by what it saw as a sham hearing, the audience repaid county officials with often-hostile testimony.
The hype has gotten so out of hand that some residents actually believe that the hospital itself is slated for closure, not one of its departments.
Why can't the Board of Supervisors use a mediator to help both sides listen to the issues and build the community's trust by having the Board address this problem in clear steps taken over time?
Surely, once everyone's calmed down, the community can see that it's disrespectful to leave a below-average trauma unit in a beleaguered area that deserves much, much better.