Harris v. Board of Supervisors

LOS ANGELES - In a landmark action for low-income residents requiring necessary medical care, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted late Tuesday to approve a settlement that would ensure increased access to better care for patients two years after it announced it would slash medical care at two Los Angeles public facilities.

Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, the law firm Alshuler Grossman Stein & Kahan, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California filed a lawsuit in March 2003, to stop the Boards' slated closure of Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center and the reduction of close to 100 emergency services beds at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. The settlement will ensure that LA County-USC will continue to operate with the appropriate staff and budget for 40,000 patient admissions and Rancho los Amigos will remain open with more than 150 beds for patients requiring catastrophic rehabilitation services.

"This is a victory for the poor, indigent patients in L.A. County who suffer from chronic health conditions and have to rely on the county healthcare system," said Silvia Argueta, an attorney with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.

The settlement will further ensure at least 50 inpatient psychiatry beds at LA County-USC remain open, maintain a lower waiting time for emergency care, establish a patient tracking system in the emergency department, allocate money to effectively and efficiently operate the facility including managing patient stays in accordance with the national standard.

The County also agreed to ensure Rancho los Amigos remain open for at least three years, which will decrease staff turnover and ensure stability in the hospital. The settlement requires that Rancho continue its mission as a catastrophic rehabilitation hospital for eligible indigent or Medi-Cal patients.

"The settlement is like CPR for the County's health care delivery service," said Mark Rosenbaum, ACLU/SC legal director. "It means that indigent families will receive necessary emergency and rehabilitation services delivered by a more cost and medically efficient system."

In the Fall of 2002, the County Board of Supervisors closed eleven health centers and cut vital services provided by free and low cost clinics. Community organizations and public interest groups submitted over 2,500 pages of testimony, letters, studies and reports to the County detailing the dramatic impact the cuts would have on the quality of medical care in Los Angeles County. In January 2003, the Board announced further reductions, voting to close Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center and to reduce the number of hospital beds at County's largest trauma care provider, LA County-USC Medical Center.

Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center is the largest safety net provider in one of the most densely populated areas of the County. LA County-USC serves close to 50,000 inpatients and 750,000 outpatients a year.