Thursday, June 14, 2007

Two LAT Stories Show Injustice In South L.A.

Two poignant stories yesterday, June 13, in the Los Angeles Times about deaths in South Los Angeles show, tragically, that inhumanity in the world is not confined to the Middle East.

One ran on Page 1 of the Times. By Charles Ornstein, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and Francisco Vara-Orta, it told the story of the death of Edith Isabel Rodriguez, 43, who was left, writhing on the floor of the Emergency Room lobby at the deplorably incompetent Martin Luther King Jr. Harbor Hospital, without care while her boyfriend and another patient fruitlessly called the 911 emergency line to try to get Rodriguez picked up and taken to a hospital that would give her care.

The Times printed partial transcripts of these two calls, in which insensitive dispatchers turned away the pleas for aid on grounds it either was not an emergency within the meaning of their rules, or they could not call paramedics from one hospital to pick up anyone at another.

Martin Luther King Hospital has been a travesty for a long time. Many people have died there for years, due to negligent care. And yet neither the responsible party, the inept Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, nor the federal government, which has repeatedly threatened to cut off funding for this hospital, have ever taken adequate action to aright matters.

We are shocked when Hamas gunmen take Fatah gunmen they have captured out in the street and execute them with shots to the head, as happened just this morning in Gaza. But what about medical personnel who leave a mortally ill woman writhing on the floor without care, despite the pleas of her boy friend and other patients? That is just as much a sin, but this is happening in a supposedly civilized city, and nothing effective has been done to prevent recurrences in the future.

Ornstein in particular has worked valiantly to bring these gross derelictions to public attention. Does anyone care? The answer is, they do not care sufficiently, or Martin Luther King Hospital would have either been shut down long ago. as a public menace, or radically improved. State medical authorities would have intervened. The members of the Board of Supervisors, instead of going out to collect campaign contributions, would have gotten off their fat asses and taken action.

In this county, they will throw Paris Hilton in jail for driving with a suspended license. But they won't prosecute the medical personnel who ignore a dying woman in their emergency room or the 911 dispatchers who tell desperate callers to go to Hell.

The second story in the Times, by the gallant and sensitive reporter Jill Leovy, should have run on Page 1 too, instead of way back in the California section. It told the story of a 15-year-old boy, Rodney Elijah Love, the beloved son of a caring mother, Angela Cooke, who died in the street in front of their home as a result of one of the senseless shootings that occur in that South Los Angeles neighborhood.

What can one say to this mother, who cradled her dying son, who tried to call 911 only to get a recording and who then waited vainly, as the boy's eyes flickered, while paramedics failed to arrive. He died before they got there, even though patrol cars had shown up.

The distraught mother asked a police officer why he had arrived long before the paramedics, only to be told that it is policy to direct paramedics to wait for clearance to enter Los Angeles shooting scenes, in order to avoid being shot themselves.

What does that say about the capability of the police, if they can't even protect paramedics, if they let people die waiting for them?

This is an absolute, unmitigated disgrace. This youth had been a student at Reseda High School, across the city. He used to get up at 5 a.m. every morning to catch the school bus that would take him into a nicer, safer neighborhood, so that he could get an education and one day go to college. That was the dream he and his mother had.

It won't come to pass now. What a tragedy, but one that occurs all the time in this insensitive city.

The L.A. Times has a daily editorial page. Why didn't it write about this? And why wasn't this story on Page 1, so that respectable citizens might be bothered a little bit that such things could happen here?

After all the buyouts, it's nice Leovy and Ornstein are still on the Times staff. Now, when will Los Angelenos pay attention to what they write?

The words of the mother should resound throughout this city: "I constantly said I have to keep my son safe. I have to protect him from these streets. I knew where he was at all times. I figured I would let him to outside for a few hours. It should be OK. He was downstairs at his own house. He's got to be safe there."

But Rodney Love was no more safe than he would be on the streets of Gaza. And the glorious LAPD, they did not even let the paramedics in who might have saved him.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ken – even you, with your own blog, will only nibble around the edges of this story. You’ll cry about what a travesty it is and lament that “…nothing effective has been done to prevent recurrences…”, but you won’t cite the real cause this has been allowed to contiune for so long: RACISM.

Now you can stop nodding your head in agreement, because it is not the politically correct victim class type of racism many are conditioned to believe. No, this is the racism that states “this is OUR hospital, and OUR kind will run it”. Where color trumps competence even at the cost of lives.

I like to think of this as the Willie Williams effect. Fortunatly the LAPD was able to figure out that hiring a boob with the right skin color doesn’t change the fact that the guy is still a boob, and quickly corrected the mistake (depending on how you feel about Parker).

MLK/Harbor will never, ever get fixed unless this racial preference system is abandoned. But that is unlikely since it will never be topic for discussion, even on a lonely blog such as this.

Maybe this is the flypaper strategy for the poor. Get them to swarm to MLK and die, so they don’t invade the nicer hospitals in the suburbs, all the while stroking the ego of a minority constituency that THEY get to run their OWN hospital. It’s a twofer!


6/16/2007 5:49 PM  

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