No End in Sight for Overcrowding at L.A. County Public Hospitals, New Chief Says

The new chief of Los Angeles County’s public hospital system said Tuesday that overcrowding is worsening at County-USC and Harbor-UCLA medical centers — a situation he is concerned will continue to deteriorate even after the federal healthcare reform law is implemented in 2014. The comments by Dr. Mitchell H. Katz represent a sharp change in tone by the Department of Health Services, which operates the county’s four public hospitals. Previously, Carol Meyer, the recently-retired chief network officer, had indicated officials believed that overcrowding would diminish after 2014 because newly insured patients, once offered a choice, could opt to seek care at a private facility. But new research from Massachusetts indicates that public hospitals that serve as the safety net for the poor actually saw more crowding once that state required near-universal health insurance in 2006, Katz said. “I don’t think that this problem is going to get better on its own anytime soon,” Katz told the Board of Supervisors at Tuesday’s meeting.

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