One good result of the 1965 Watts riots was the establishment, soon thereafter, of the Martin Luther King Jr.-Charles R. Drew Medical Center—the first hospital in the African American community in south central Los Angeles. Now, 40 years later, King-Drew hospital is in real trouble and may soon be closed down.
Most of the hospital’s income is tied to the Medicare and Medicaid programs which pay for health care for elderly and low-income Americans. It has been out of compliance with the minimum standards of quality care required by the programs for almost three years and recently it failed in nine of 23 items checked by an inspection team from the Federal government. The immediate result is the loss of $200 million out of a $380 million annual budget, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Representative Maxine Waters and Jesse Jackson organized a “Save King Drew” event which was attended by most local African American pastors and civic leaders. The Los Angeles County board of supervisors has directed its health department to try to find a way to bring the King-Drew center under the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance in order to preserve some health care services in the community.
That is not a practical solution for most residents. “The people that come here [are] on fixed incomes,” explains Mollie Bell, a community activist. “How are they going to get to Torrance? They don’t have transportation.”
This story is sadly typical of urban neighborhoods across America. Hospitals with a long history of serving the poor are closing their doors or moving away. Our national “managed care” policies are failing those who most need healing hands and caring hearts. Many churches are responding by providing primary-care medical clinics free or at low cost, prevention education and a “parish nurse” or similar health educator/advocate to make sure those in need get health services.
Are you a health professional? Do you have civic action skills? Are you willing to get involved with local churches interested in health ministries? If so, contact our church and ask for the Health Ministries Director.
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