Constructing a new future

On the 44th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, hosted an appreciation luncheon at the construction site of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital for the men and women who are building the new 194,000-square-foot hospital — a hands on dedication to keeping the legendary civil right’s leader’s dream of equal opportunity alive.

“We recognize you for all the work you do each day to build a new hospital that is built on time and on budget,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, before a crowd of more than 400 construction workers. “We are delighted to honor your contributions to this important project.

“Today we celebrate the progress being made and look forward to an extraordinary future,” he continued.

From pipefitters to electricians, workers of all trades took off their hard-hats for an hour to chat with colleagues, eat grilled hotdogs, hamburgers, and apple pie prepared by Earlez Grille, and hear gratitude expressed by representatives from the County of Los Angeles and the MLK Healthcare Corporation, board of directors.

“You are changing the lives of those who live in this community,” said Chief Executive Officer William T. “Bill” Fujioka. “Thank you for what you do.”

The same sentiment of was shared by Healthcare Corporation board Chairman Manny Abascal , who reiterated that the workers are making a profound investment into the community and building the foundation for a quality facility.

Of particular note throughout the day was the significant presence of workers who also are residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. Several said that building a hospital in their own community was a source of tremendous pride for them. Their participation, many pointed out, was not by accident. County employment policies enacted two years ago were essential to providing job opportunities for them with regard to the hospital’s construction.

In October 2010, the Board of Supervisors established a local working hiring policy for the MLK Medical Center campus. The policy requires that 30% of the total construction hours be reserved for workers who live within a five – mile radius and/or reside in zip codes experiencing 150% of the County’s average rate of unemployment. The investments on the campus are projected to create nearly 2,100 direct construction jobs for the community. To date, the MLK Inpatient Tower project has succeeded in hiring 38% of its employees from within a five mile radius and 31% of its employees from those zip codes experiencing higher rates of unemployment. When the MLK Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center begins construction, it will be governed by an unprecedented project labor agreement to ensure compliance with the local hiring policy.

The new Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital

Forty years after the Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Hospital initially opened its doors the MLK Medical Center is experiencing a renaissance. A new state-of-the-art , independently governed hospital is being developed to replace the old Los Angeles County-run facility. Steady progress is being made in an effort to transform the MLK Medical Center campus into a center of excellence for health care delivery, a medical home for the underserved, urban health promotion, health workforce development, research and teaching, and economic development. The County of Los Angeles has earmarked nearly $400 million in public funds to promote quality health and wellness services on the Watts-Willowbrook campus.

Since the closure of MLK-Harbor Hospital in August 2007, the County has been diligently working to restore inpatient services at the MLK site. In 2009, the County of Los Angeles partnered with the University of California to form a new non-profit corporation with its own independent governing board to open and operate the 120-bed MLK Hospital. This innovative public-private partnership will leverage the County’s resources, the University of California’s medical expertise and the leadership of an independent governing board to deliver high quality services in the new facility. Construction of the inpatient tower is scheduled to be substantially completed in March of 2013.