Delays, Costs Mount for New King Drew Hospital

The project now stands at $281 million as South Los Angeles waits for a new hospital

The promised replacement for the King Drew Medical Center that closed six years ago will require another $29 million, and is now projected to open in 2015, according to Los Angeles County officials.

The County Board of Supervisors approved the additional funding Tuesday for the renovation of the inpatient tower that will serve as the core of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital.

The total project cost now stands at more than $281 million. Completion dates for the project have repeatedly been set back.

"There have been some unforeseen construction issues, but you know what? You get that in any major construction project," said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents the Willowbrook area of unincorporated South Los Angeles that includes the King medical campus.

It's now expected that the construction work will be finished in 60 to 90 days, Ridley-Thomas said. Installing medical equipment and hiring all new staff and medical personnel is projected to take another year.

The commitment to build the original hospital was made half a century ago in overdue recognition that the Southside's healthcare needs were under-served.

Named after the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated in 1968, the county hospital operated in conjunction with the Charles R. Drew Medical School.


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But later a series of lapses in medical care and other problems led to the hospital's loss of accreditation. Supervisors agreed to close the hospital in 2007, with a pledge to replace it.

The existing inpatient tower had been built in the mid-1990s and was one of the newer portions of the old hospital. Even with the cost overrun, the decision to renovate the tower will cost $100 million less than building a new hospital from scratch, Ridley-Thomas said.

The decision was also intended to shorten the seven to eight years required to build a hospital from scratch.

"We are taking the amount of time and care to get it done right," Ridley-Thomas said. "We do not wish to have anything that is remotely reminiscent of the past."

The new 120-bed hospital will be operated by a newly created nonprofit organization, the MLK - LA Healthcare Corporation.

The University of California's Health Care System "will play a leadership role in hospital-based professional services and in developing and maintaining high quality standards for patient care," according to a statement posted on the MLK Community Hospital website.

The County Department of Health will continue to manage clinics that have remained open on the campus.

During the renovation of the hospital's inpatient tower, the county has been building a new facility for the Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center known as MACC, currently located in the original hospital building facing Wilmington Ave.

MACC is expected to move next year.

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