New Surgical Building Inaugurated at Harbor-UCLA

Walking through the gleaming new hallways, inspecting the state of the art equipment and monitors of the new emergency/trauma and surgery building at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in January,  Dr. Timothy Van Natta could not stop smiling. As the interim chief medical officer of the hospital, he remembers the challenges of performing heart surgery or operating on a gunshot wound in the cramped spaces and dated linoleum-lined rooms of the old hospital, built in 1963.

In April, however, his entire staff will be working in the new facility, which was constructed and finished on time and $10 million under budget. The expansive 190,000 square-foot facility features separate adult and pediatric emergency departments with a total of 80 treatment rooms, seven trauma resuscitation rooms, 16 operating rooms, and pre- and post-operative patient areas — significantly more than the capacity of the older facility.

“The people of the county who receive their healthcare here are going to have a much, much better experience than they have had in the past,” said Van Natta, noting that the ER has approximately 80,000 visits per year.

The new building also has a radiological suite that includes x-ray, ultrasound and CT technology housed directly in the ER so patients do not have to be transported across the hospital for diagnostic tests. The new facility forms one part of a larger, more holistic approach to healthcare that emphasizes prevention. With the Affordable Care Act, patients have more choices, so county facilities had to keep up to be competitive, noted Delvecchio Finley, chief executive officer of the hospital.

“For a long time county facilities have always been competitive on quality of care…but where we struggled a little bit was on the service side…Buildings like this, really provide a healthcare experience that complements the quality of care,” said Finley. Lastly, he noted that part of having a better patient experience includes aesthetics, so the new hospital has a vast collection of donated art hanging from its walls that is both soothing and pleasing to the eye.

The new hospital which was under construction for three years, has long been a priority for Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents the district where the hospital is located.

“This is a commitment on the part of the County of Los Angeles to deliver high quality emergency and trauma care in this new health care reform era,” the supervisor told a crowd of more than a hundred physicians, nurses, hospital staff and elected officials on the inauguration day. “This is a day to celebrate.”

For some patients, the new hospital is just the icing on an institution that already had excellent patient care. In December 2012, Richard Williams’ 13-year-old son Ricky was stabbed in the heart. Doctors gently warned Williams that it would be touch and go, but after several hours of surgery, Ricky was saved.

“This new building means a lot to me,” said Williams. “It signifies not only new technology, but also how many other families will be saved here.”

Lead Paint Removal Coming to LA County Homes

Los Angeles County is expected to receive more than $630 million to clean up homes that contain lead-based paint. The California Superior Court has ordered companies Sherwin Williams, National Lead and ConAgra to pay $1.15 billion into a fund to remove lead paint from homes in various counties and cities throughout the state.

The court decision is the largest public nuisance award in the history of the state and comes after 13 years of vigorous litigation. The case has already gone up to the Court of Appeal twice and the California Supreme Court once.

Children exposed to lead can suffer from neurologic impairments that hinder their ability to learn.  Even though lead-based paint was banned in 1978, more than 1.5 million homes in Los Angeles County still have traces of it.  In fact, the main cause of lead poisoning for children in the county is exposure to lead-based paint. From 2007-2011 there were more than 40,000 reported lead poisonings for children under the age of 21, with high blood lead levels. Nearly 500 of these children were treated for very high blood lead levels.

In 2007, while in the state senate, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas authored legislation that increased lead screenings of children at high risk of lead poisonings in California.  The bill also improved reporting to ensure that children with elevated blood lead levels are appropriately tracked and are getting the help they need.

“Lead poisoning continues to be an issue for too many families,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “I am pleased that the County of Los Angeles can begin to take steps to remediate that and protect the health of our children with this court decision.”

Homes with a current or past history of lead poisoned children will be given priority. In addition to the homes where children have been poisoned, Los Angeles County plans to target more than 85,000 homes that are in low income neighborhoods. Those worried that their child has been exposed to lead can ask their physician for lead testing and parents who do not have a doctor for their child can also call the hotline for referrals to free and low-cost health services for children and teens.

“California Superior Court Judge Kleinberg’s decision is clear,” said, Dr. Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, Los Angeles County Director of Public Health and Health Officer. “Companies that knowingly manufactured and sold lead paint for interior use in residences despite knowing that it poisoned children, must be held accountable for their actions.”

For more information call the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Hotline at 1-800-LA-4-LEAD or visit:

Construction Completed on Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital

Construction of the new Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital has been completed, bringing the community of Willowbrook and surrounding areas closer to seeing their new health care facility become reality.

The hospital is expected to serve 1.2 million residents from all over South Los Angeles including Compton, Inglewood, Watts-Willowbrook and Lynwood. It will also create more than 5,000 jobs in the area with approximately 700 directly at the hospital. The hospital, which will be privately run, is scheduled to open to the public in early 2015 after the new staff is in place and it passes through rigorous state licensing requirements.

The hospital, which houses four operating rooms, 21 treatment bays and will include 131 patient beds, cost $285 million to build.  It will be governed by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Los Angeles Healthcare Corporation (MLK-LA), an independent, nonprofit organization that is committed to establishing and maintaining high quality medical services in the community.

Both the Hospital and Outpatient Center were constructed with more than 50 percent local worker participation.

The adjacent Outpatient Center is also near completion and is scheduled to open in late spring of 2014. The Outpatient Center, meanwhile, will have 104 exam rooms, radiology and mammogram equipment and five operating rooms and cost $175 million to build.

The Hospital and Outpatient Center are part of a medical complex that will focus on preventive care in addition to inpatient services.

The closure of the former Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center in 2007 left the area without a hospital or true healthcare.  When he was elected to office in 2008, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas made opening a new state of the art hospital and outpatient center a priority.

“This medical campus is coming together as promised, with state of the art facilities, technology and highly experienced professionals,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “This community deserves top notch health care facilities that will be looked upon as a first-rate, 21st century medical village.”

Mobile Eye Clinic Helps Kids See

Seven-year-old Carlos Urrutia has struggled for years to see the front board in his classroom, which always seems to be blurry. But recently, he stepped into the Vision to Learn mobile clinic to get fitted for a new pair of glasses.

“I’m excited because I’ll be able to see with glasses,” Carlos said. “Right now it looks blurry, I can’t see far away.”

In about three weeks, his new pair of glasses will be delivered to him at school.

“When I get my glasses I’m going to see my ABC’s good,” said Carlos, a 2nd grader at 52nd Street Elementary school.

Founded by former Los Angeles Deputy Mayor, Austin Beutner, Vision to Learn brings trained doctors and state-of-the-art mobile eye clinics to elementary schools throughout low-income communities in Los Angeles and provides students with free eye exams and glasses. Since the program began in March 2012, the mobile clinics have provided free glasses to more than 14,500 students and have visited 108 Los Angeles Unified School District, charter and catholic schools an average of 25 times each month.

Samuel Sanchez, also a second grader, has trouble with assignments in the classroom because he can’t see well.

“When my teacher writes words on the board, I can’t see them and I write the wrong letters,” Samuel said.

Samuel is excited about his new pair of glasses but he is a little worried he might break or lose them.

“I’m a little nervous that I’ll drop my glasses,” said Samuel. “I’m going to protect them and keep them away from my 2-year-old sister, she breaks everything.”

[raw]According to Vision to Learn, nearly one-quarter-million young children across California do not have the glasses they need to read their books, see the chalkboard, or participate in class. According to a study by the UCLA Schools of Medicine and Public Health, more than 20 percent of elementary school students in low-income communities have a vision problem and 96 percent of those students who need glasses do not have them.

The Vision to Learn program has changed the lives of many children, but also the doctors who drive around in the mobile eye clinic.

Ramon Vega, an optician with Vision to Learn has been with the program since it began last year.

Monday through Friday he leaves his home in Cudahay at 6:15 a.m. to meet fellow optician Sherry Pastor to pick up the mobile eye clinic from an LAUSD school bus parking lot in downtown Los Angeles and drives to the scheduled school for the day.

“I love my job and I love what I do,” said Vega, whose most cherished memory of his job is having children hug him to say thank you for the glasses. “I fulfill my purpose and serve my community.”

Pastor recalls distributing glasses this time last year at Rose Hills Academy Elementary in Lincoln Heights when she noticed a magnifying glass attached to a fourth graders backpack.

“I asked what it was for and the little girl said that it was to read and do her homework,” Pastor said. “I put the glass on her and she covered both hands with her mouth. She was shocked. I drove home and cried.”
After being examined, first grader, Heber Romero, 6, chose a pair of red glasses.

“I’m going to wear my glasses all day –when I do my homework, at lunch and in class,” Heber said.

Similarly, once the black glasses were placed on 7-year-old, Michael Alexander’s face he didn’t want to take them off.
“I like these glasses,” Michael said. “Now I can see.”

Star Apartments Open New Clinic

The Star Apartment project, a newly built supportive housing site for the homeless, also will be home to a new Department of Health Services primary care clinic that will specialize in providing integrated health care services to homeless people and residents of supportive housing.

The building, owned by the Skid Row Housing Trust, will house the Star Clinic on the ground level and the department’s Housing for Health offices, with 102 residential units above. Funding for the clinic was recently approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Seventy-Eight tenants already have moved into the building, located on 6th Street and Maple Avenue, with the rest scheduled to move in by the end of December. Designed by notable architect Michael Maltzan, the building is made of prefabricated residences that were placed on top of a concrete superstructure. Formerly an elevated parking garage, the building will include a basketball court and track on its former roof for the tenants. The UniHealth Foundation, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and Gensler Architecture also contributed to the project.

Based on other similar projects, the Department of Health Services anticipates a 75 percent reduction in unnecessary emergency room visits and inpatient admissions for tenants who are housed in the the Star apartments.

Located along the border of Skid Row, the project has been praised by architecture and urban design experts for setting a new standard for remodeling an existing 1-story building and adding new community spaces and residential levels above. In addition, there will be a community garden in the space for residents to enjoy.

“The Star Apartments will offer high quality housing, services and amenities to help folks get back on their feet and live productive lives,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose office contributed $400,000 for the project. “It is essential that we offer these types of homes for people in need across our community.”