LOS ANGELES-Politicians and bureaucrats have been battling over how big the rebuilt Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center should be. That fight may be settled by the construction of a small satellite hospital in the suburbs east of downtown.
The construction of such a facility would satisfy critics who say the poor could be shortchanged if rebuilt County-USC had less than half of the hospital's current bed capacity.
Los Angeles County Health Services Director Mark Finucane said the county's five-member Board of Supervisors now supports a plan to build a 60-bed satellite facility in Baldwin Park for about $37 million. The hospital would function as an east campus to rebuilt County-USC.
Located about 15 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, the Baldwin Park site is in the midst of a low-income neighborhood that has never had a public hospital. Finucane said Supervisor Gloria Molina, one of his biggest adversaries on the County-USC reconstruction, presented the satellite proposal informally to the board and to him. The board has yet to vote on the issue.
Molina was unavailable for comment at deadline.
Molina, who represents the area encompassing County-USC, had fiercely supported replacing the 1,330-bed hospital with a 750-bed facility. The hospital now uses about 860 beds.
Finucane had supported a less-costly 600-bed replacement hospital.
The original Depression-era hospital needs to be rebuilt because of damage from the 1994 Northridge earthquake. County officials said building a replacement would be less expensive and disrupt care less than repairing the current hospital.
In 1998, the county Board of Supervisors approved the plan Finucane supports by a 4-1 vote.
But before construction began, Molina persuaded state lawmakers to hold up more than $100 million in funding for the project until a new agreement was reached to provide more beds.
While the supervisors have not voted on the satellite facility, county and state lawmakers are hammering out the proposal to determine how much money the state would contribute toward construction, Finucane said.
"We could build the satellite facility in a few years, depending on how quickly everyone makes up their minds," Finucane said.
The reconstruction is scheduled to be completed in 2008.