Calling it “a promise fulfilled,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas led a historic dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital.
“It’s a new day at MLK, but an even better one is coming,” he vowed to the crowd, estimated at about 1,300 people, who came to witness the long-awaited event. “A new era in healthcare delivery has begun.”
The 131-bed community hospital opened its doors last month, eight years after the closure of troubled King/Drew Medical Center. Its mission: providing compassionate, innovative and quality care to the 1.35 million residents of South Los Angeles – regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.
“Your health is our top priority,” said Manuel Abascal, chairman of the hospital’s Board of Directors. “This is a hospital of the people, for the people, by the people.”
“At our hospital, patients and families will always come first,” added hospital CEO Dr. Elaine Batchlor.
U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn; California Attorney General Kamala Harris; Los Angeles County Supervisors Hilda Solis and Don Knabe and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti were just a few of many dignitaries who joined in the celebration.
Mayor Garcetti said, “We need hope and we need health, and today we have both.”
Los Angeles County invested $284 million to build the hospital, and provided another $171 million in startup funding before handing off responsibility for day-to-day operations to the private nonprofit Martin Luther King, Jr. Los Angeles Healthcare Corporation.
The centerpiece of the $650-million Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus, the technologically advanced hospital provides general medicine, emergency and intensive care, as well as maternity and surgical services.
“God has answered our prayers!” said grateful community activist “Sweet” Alice Harris.
Further investment is coming to South LA. The Supervisor has directed the county to look into possibly bringing back a Level I Trauma Center to one of South Los Angeles’ hospitals. On the MLK Medical Campus, construction is either underway, or planned, on a recuperative care center where homeless patients can stay after being discharged from the hospital; a medical office building for doctors; an autism center, community garden, bike paths and walking trails.
Around the campus, Metro’s Rosa Parks/Willowbrook bus and train stations are also slated for significant upgrades. So are the local public library, senior center, and Kenneth Hahn Plaza.