The August 2007 closure of the Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital in South Los Angeles negatively affected physicians and patients in the community, according to a report that was based on physician interviews and published in the Annals of Family Medicine, Medscape Medical News reports.
Researchers from UC-San Francisco conducted the interviews between six and 13 months after the closure of the facility, which included a trauma center, emergency department and residency training program. Researchers queried local primary care physicians on how the closure affected their practices.
According to the report, 28 out of the 42 physicians surveyed said they felt some negative repercussions from the closure of the safety-net facility.
Researchers found that the closure of the hospital led to diminished access to specialists, poor continuity of care and ED overcrowding. These changes affected physicians in underserved settings more than those in other areas.
The hospital's closure also contributed to:
- Longer wait times for referrals for elective surgeries; and
- Fewer community primary care physicians because the hospital's residency program ended.
In addition, physicians reported seeing sicker patients either because patients did not know where to go or were unable to afford higher transportation costs to another facility.
Physicians whose practices were located close to the hospital felt the effects of the closure to the greatest degree, but physicians whose practices were up to 20 miles away also were affected, according to the study.
In a related editorial, Robert Phillips -- director of the Robert Graham Center in Washington, D.C. -- wrote that the federal health reform law could help address the closure of safety-net hospitals.
He wrote that the law "requires that not-for-profit hospitals assess their community and develop interventions based on that assessment every three years" (Garcia, Medscape Medical News, 11/14).