Board of Supervisors considers pact with UC to reopen MLK Hospital

The Board of Supervisors considers today ratifying a pact with the University of California Board of Regents to reopen Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital. The hospital was closed in 2007 after failing a series of federal inspections.

Under the arrangement, UC would provide the physician staff and develop a graduate medical training program while the county will contribute financially to the facility.

The plan was approved by the UC regents Nov. 19. It envisions reopening the hospital as a 120-bed facility in late 2012, housed in a new seismically compliant patient tower.

An emergency department, housed in a yet-to-be-built adjacent building, would be opened in 2013, followed by an ambulatory care center to be opened in 2014.

County officials said the construction costs would be about $391 million, less than attempting to seismically retrofit the old MLK-Harbor Hospital building. County administrators said the cost of retrofitting the building could exceed $416 million.

UC would not be responsible for any of the construction or operating costs of the hospital.

The county estimated the new facility would cost about $168 million a year to run and was expected to pay about 30 percent of those costs, with the rest coming from federal and state reimbursements.

The hospital would be run by an independent nonprofit organization overseen by a seven-member board of directors, including two members chosen by the county, two by the university and three jointly by the county and university. Once established,thee board would hire a private operator to provide administrative services for the hospital.

Martin Luther King Jr.-Dre Medical Center was a full-service teaching hospital built after the 1965 Watts riots. It lost its accreditation due to a series of life-threatening mistakes by employees. It was then renamed and merged with county-run Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in an attempt to save its federal funding.

The medical center failed a final "make-or-break" inspection by federal regulators and the hospital was closed in August 2007. It was turned into a county-run walk-in clinic.