A federal judge issued a tentative ruling preventing Los Angeles County from closing 207-bed Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, Downey, Calif., which treats victims of stroke and traumatic injury. In addition, U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper also barred a planned 100-bed cutback at County-USC Medical Center, Los Angeles, saying further reductions in capacity could lead to unnecessary pain, medical complications and deaths. The county board had planned to close Rancho Los Amigos and eliminate beds at USC as part of a strategy for narrowing a gaping shortfall in the healthcare system's budget; but a coalition of public interest groups has argued the measures would harm the area's neediest residents. Although Cooper's ruling is not final, it is considered an indication of how she ultimately will rule in the case. A hearing is set for Monday, after which Cooper may formalize her order. If the ruling holds, health officials said, they would look elsewhere for cuts, perhaps to the network of private health clinics that serves the uninsured or even to emergency rooms. Sixteen county clinics were closed last year to save money. -- by Laura B. Benko
Court halts L.A. County cutbacks, for now
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