Nurses Welcome LA County Call to Delay Closure of Olympia Medical Center, RNs Urge UCLA Health to Act
The California Nurses Association today welcomed a request by Los Angeles County’s Emergency Medical Services Agency to operators of Olympia Medical Center (OMC) to delay the hospital closure “for a minimum of six months.”
At the same time, CNA urged UCLA Health, which has publicly announced it has purchased the Olympia property from the current corporate owner Alecto Health Services, to commit to maintaining OMC as a full-service acute care hospital with no suspension of services at least for the duration of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
In a letter to OMC’s CEO Matt Williams Jan. 11, calling for a delay in the shutdown, LA County EMS Director Cathy Chidester wrote that “the voluntary closure of OMC during this crisis is irresponsible and will cause further hardship on the healthcare system.”
Chidester also noted that the hospital is required under state law to participate in a public hearing “to allow the surrounding community and those individuals potentially impacted, to express their opinions or concerns regarding an impending hospital closure.”
“We commend the County for this quick response in urging a hospital which is current caring for dozens of gravely ill Covid-19 patients to remain open,” said CNA President Zenei Cortez, RN.
“It is unimaginable that at a time when records of hospitalizations and deaths are being shattered every day that Alecto could be so indifferent to public suffering as to close a desperately needed hospital,” Cortez said.
In her letter, Chidester noted the county is still “in the middle of a crisis due to the effects of Covid-19 which has led to extensive wait times for ambulances to offload patients in local emergency departments, delays in patient care due to a shortage of locations to place sick individuals, and the potential implementation of crisis care due to inadequate hospital resources.”
California Assembly member Richard Bloom, whose district includes Olympia Medical Center, expressed his concerns in a letter sent Jan. 11 to California Health and Human Services Director Dr. Mark Ghaly, noting that closure would “place even more pressure on surrounding facilities.”
“UCLA Health,” wrote Bloom “has informed me their intentions are to make investments in the facility to reduce the shortage of behavioral healthcare services in Los Angeles by providing behavioral/psychiatric services, including inpatient hospital beds. These services are badly needed and I look forward to hearing more about UCLA’s long-term plan for the facility.”
“Patients in Los Angeles County are dying every day. Nurses are committed to do whatever it takes to make sure we keep this hospital fully open and operating,” said Cortez. “We will continue to work with public health officials, elected representatives, and the community to stop the closure, and with the University of California to either ensure Alecto maintains full operation until the purchase is completed or take over and run the hospital itself now.”
Cortez noted that closure of OMC, which recorded more than 25,000 emergency room visits in 2019, “would also have a devastating impact on the thousands of seniors, low-income, and Black patients who comprise a large percentage of the hospital’s patient population.”
According to Medicare cost reports covering the first half of 2020, about 60 percent of OMC’s admitted patients were covered by Medicare, and almost 30 percent covered by Medi-Cal. Some 40 percent of admitted patients were Black, and some 63 percent of patients were over the age of 60.
“If we close, it’s going to overwhelm all the surrounding hospitals that are already struggling to care for all these patients,” said Jorge Burruel, an intensive care unit RN at OMC who said he has spoken with nurses at many nearby hospitals. “The ERs are full. There is not enough staff. The quality and timeliness of care is going to diminish. Olympia needs to stay open.”
Alecto, is “not taking this whole pandemic into consideration,” Burruel said. “They are not looking out for the best interests of the community. If they were, they would keep the place open. We nurses are ready to fight.”