County-USC Medical Center may add 150 more hospital beds

The new county hospital that opened in 2008 had 600 inpatient beds, 224 fewer than the classic old LA general hospital that it replaced. But the new building has been crowded almost since day one, and the Board of Supervisors today gave the go-ahead for a costly expansion that would add back about 150 beds. “We are very happy about today’s vote,” said Roxane Marquez, spokeswoman for Supervisor Gloria Molina. ”It’s a big victory."

The medical center regularly turns away ambulances and transfers patients to other hospitals, due to crowding. Preparing for the arrival of new Obamacare patients is also part of the impetus for expansion, the LA Times says.

The county needs to take this first step toward expansion of County/USC because the current solutions to the crowding are inefficient and expensive, said Mitch Katz, the director of the health services department. And there is an urgency because of the federal health reform law, which takes full effect in 2014.

Next year, newly insured patients frustrated by long waits could seek care at private hospitals, leaving the county without much-needed revenue. At the same time, demand at County/USC could increase because people who may have gone without coverage or healthcare could seek medical services. Either way, county leaders say more space is needed at County/USC.

For years, health and county leaders have discussed the need for more beds at the acute-care hospital, one of the largest in the nation. In 2010, the supervisors voted to ask staff to develop a plan to add 150 beds. That was after an independent report said the county hospital was too small to meet patient demand. The plan stalled because of a lack of funding, [Supervisor Gloria] Molina said.

Construction of the additional beds could cost $300 million to $450 million, Katz said. The financing would come through the sale of bonds, Molina said.

Details such as where on the Boyle Heights medical campus to build, and when, remain to be decided.

Above, the old hospital. Below, the 2008 facility.


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