Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Dying of Covid at L.A.'s Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital

The MLK hospital in Los Angeles was featured in an astonishing set of articles at the Los Angeles Times way back in 2004. I've never forgotten these stories. In fact, one thing I've never forgotten is that I hoped to God I never ended up getting treated there. 

I know this might sound "racist," but MLK-LA at the time was an "all-black"-run health care facility. I don't know, but are black medical professionals less proficient than health professionals of other races or ethnicities? Of course, asking these kind of questions is verboten in the current climate, but I'm just a lowly blogger, so who cares?

In any case, I'm coming back to MLK-LA in light of the New York Times' report out yesterday, "Dying of Covid in a ‘Separate and Unequal’ L.A. Hospital." (And especially notice how it's the status of "separate and unequal" that's apparently the main explanation for why so many people die there. I don't know, maybe it's not just those "systemic" factors that have left the hospital in the lower tier of hospitals in Los Angeles? Just spit-balling, but it's always worth using your critical thinking skills when addressing such topics.)


Inside an overwhelmed facility in the worst-hit part of California, where the patriarchs of two immigrant families were taken when they fell sick.

LOS ANGELES — Over the New Year’s holiday, the grown children of two immigrant families called 911 to report that their fathers were having difficulty breathing. The men, born in Mexico and living three miles from each other in the United States, both had diabetes and high blood pressure. They both worked low-wage, essential jobs — one a minibus driver, the other a cook. And they both hadn’t realized how sick they were.

Three weeks later, the men — Emilio Virgen, 63, and Gabriel Flores, 50 — both died from Covid-19. Their stories were hauntingly familiar at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital, by size the hardest-hit hospital in the hardest-hit county in the state now leading the nation in cases and on the brink of surpassing New York with the highest death toll. In the intensive care unit on Jan. 21, Mr. Virgen became No. 207 on the hospital’s list of Covid-19 fatalities; Mr. Flores, just down the hall, became No. 208.

The New York Times spent more than a week inside the hospital, during a period when nearly a quarter of all Covid inpatients there were dying, despite advances in knowledge of the disease. It was an outcome that approached that of some New York hospitals last spring, when the city was the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. That rise coincided with a surge of cases in Southern California, a doubling of the mortality rate in Los Angeles hospitals over all and the spread of a new local strain that may be more transmissible than the more prevalent one.

Eight out of ten of those who died at M.L.K. hospital were Hispanic, a group with the highest Covid-19 death rates in Los Angeles County, followed by Black residents. County data also showed that the most impoverished Los Angeles residents, many of them around the hospital in South Los Angeles, are dying of the disease at four times the rate of the wealthiest.

Michelle Goldson, an I.C.U. nurse who cared for both Mr. Virgen and Mr. Flores, said many patients had a “distrust of the health care system, distrust of doctors” and came in only when desperately ill. Severe cases, she said, weren’t limited to older people. “Everybody’s dying here,” she said. As she headed home one recent evening, she waved at a 27-year-old patient who was sitting up eating dinner. When she returned the next morning, he was dead. “What kind of virus is this?” she asked.

Right now, it is one that is merciless in dense, low-income neighborhoods like those where Mr. Virgen and Mr. Flores lived. Relatives similarly described them as hardworking and upbeat, determined to provide for their families. Mr. Virgen raised four children who all went to college, and stubbornly nurtured scrawny mango and lemon trees. Mr. Flores was proud that his oldest son, a Dreamer who had been slipped into the country as a toddler, had graduated from the Los Angeles police academy.

For M.L.K.’s chief executive, Dr. Elaine Batchlor, the inequities in disease and death from Covid reflect those long present in the community. Patients come from what she termed a “medical desert,” with chronic shortages of primary care doctors and other health services.

In the best of times, her small institution cannot match what many other hospitals offer, from caring for preemies to major heart attack victims. Now, amid the pandemic, the hospital can’t test experimental therapies, can’t draw on a large pool of specialized staff in a surge and can’t offer last-chance care on an external lung machine.

During the peak, M.L.K. treated more Covid patients than some Los Angeles hospitals three to four times its size. While Dr. Batchlor emphasizes that her institution has learned to be nimble, she also says it has been overwhelmed. She has pleaded with the governor for help, tried to shame other institutions into accepting transfers of patients and spoken out about the failings of American health care.

“We’ve created a separate and unequal hospital system and a separate and unequal funding system for low-income communities,” she said in an interview. “And now with Covid, we’re seeing the disproportionate impact.”

Keep reading.

Whatever the cause of all this medical heartbreak, it's definitely hitting hardest those "marginalized" communities leftists are always blathering about.