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L.A. Care awards $500,000 for a 'new' Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital

L.A. Care Health Plan's board of governors has awarded $500,000 to jump-start the planning process for a new Martin Luther King Hospital in south Los Angeles.

The project is expected to establish a new independent, non-profit corporation to manage and operate the newly refurbished facility. The new hospital, which will occupy the old King Drew Medical Center, is scheduled to open in late 2012.

While operationally independent, the new non-profit organization will seek physician services and quality oversight from the University of California and partner with Los Angeles County for the use of the remodeled hospital building, indigent care services and ambulatory care services. Funds will also support early project management functions and the development of a work plan to facilitate the opening of the new hospital, which will be called Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital.

"King Drew was a central component of the healthcare delivery system in south Los Angeles. It has been missed, and we are very pleased to be able to provide the initial critical support needed to help the new MLK Hospital get on its feet," said Howard Kahn, L.A. Care Health Plan's CEO.

Studies have shown that south Los Angeles is one of the most underserved urban communities in the county, having limited access to many healthcare resources. The 2008 South Los Angeles Health Equity Scorecard reported that south L.A. has 43 percent fewer healthcare resources, including healthcare facilities, healthcare professionals and healthcare coverage, compared to the county as a whole.

L.A. Care's support of the MLK Hospital project will help leverage the county's financial investment of more than $321 million designated for the new hospital.

The MLK Hospital project is funded through L.A. Care's Community Health Investment Fund (CHIF), which has provided more than $100 million in grants to strengthen the safety net, improve community and public health and expand health insurance coverage.

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