06 Jun A New King Has Arrived: Hospital Celebrates First Anniversary
By James Rogers III
When King/Drew Medical Center closed its doors in 2007 after years of health and safety violations, South Los Angeles residents were left without access to quality, affordable health care.
Luckily, much has changed. In 2015, Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital opened its doors with a brand new, state-of-the-art facility in King/Drew’s place. July marks the hospital’s one-year anniversary.
This came after more than five years of pressure from county leaders, community activists, and residents urging that a hospital be brought back to the area.
“For a community that had been medically underserved for too long, [this hospital] represents healing and hope,” said L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who helped the hospital relaunch.
The hospital, a $285 million project, provides surgery, labor and delivery and emergency care to the Willowbrook and greater South L.A. community.
It comes at a critical time. Data collected by the L.A. County Department of Public Health shows a need for 1,700 additional primary care providers and specialists in the county. Many residents don’t have a primary doctor or a regular health care facility.
“Much more is on the horizon,” Ridley-Thomas added. Martin Luther King Jr. hospital “prioritizes serving all people regardless of their ability to pay, their residency or immigration status, or any other obstacles preventing access to quality healthcare.”
The new hospital is spearheaded by Dr. Elaine Batchlor, who joined the hospital board in 2010, and took reign as CEO in 2012.
‘For a community that had been medically underserved for too long, [this hospital] represents healing and hope’
“We want people to know that we’re brand new, built from the ground up,” said Dr. Batchlor.
Brenda Love, current patient and Watts native, had horrible feelings about the previous center. She remembers being misdiagnosed at the old hospital.
By comparison, Love stated that she’s been “blown away” by the new facility and staff who are “professional, educated doctors who know their stuff. I love how we can have real conversations [with hospital staff].”
On average, 5,000 people go to the hospital’s emergency room each month. Labor and delivery nurses host baby showers for their patients. Staff crotchet blankets, hats, and booties for newborns. That type of familial appeal guides the hospital during their hiring process.
Batchlor believes the hospital’s future is bright. With its nearly 1,000 person staff, medical equipment that integrates with the Hospital’s health systems (smart beds that notify nurses when an at-risk patient tries to get out of bed, for example), and a new community oriented service model, the center is a state-of-the-art facility that delivers quality care.
“One of the things that sets the campus apart is our familial touch. Every patient feels more like a member of a larger family,” said Batchlor.
For a community that has long been last in line to receive the best in health care, the new hospital promises South L.A. residents what they truly deserve: only the best.