Troubled Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles has lost accreditation on yet another of its medical residency programs, this time in neonatology.
The closure of the neonatology program, effective June 2005, is a significant blow for the hospital, which in recent months also lost its ability to train aspiring surgeons and radiologists.
Three of King/Drew's 18 residency programs -- anesthesia, family practice and internal medicine -- are also on probation. The hospital's oversight of its entire graduate medical education program also has been deemed substandard by the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education.
The council said the hospital did not treat enough sick babies to adequately train doctors, among other things, said Harry E. Douglas III, interim president of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, which runs the training programs at King/Drew.
"The people who wrote this don't seem to have a handle on what exactly they're talking about," said neonatologist Roberta Bruni, M.D. "They're referring to numbers and data that don't have any base in reality. I think this is just a game they're playing with us."
In the first four months of this year, the hospital treated 14 babies weighing less than 2.2 pounds, Bruni said, far more than most hospitals of its size handle.
The three-year neonatal fellowship, one of the smallest training programs at the hospital, accepts only one new doctor each year.
Los Angeles County health officials are separately trying to restrict King/Drew's ability to care for the sickest newborns by downgrading the status of its neonatal intensive-care unit.
Douglas said the university, one of four historically black medical schools in the nation, was working hard to maintain and improve its remaining doctor-training programs. The accreditation of its emergency medicine and pediatrics residencies was renewed recently.