For decades, the Cleveland Clinic has ranked among the world's best hospitals, a pioneer in medical research, patient care and transparency regarding patient outcomes. Why then, does Medicare only give the Cleveland Clinic three out of a possible five stars? In findings obtained by U.S. News, the clinic earned uncharacteristically low scores in the government's proposed new consumer ratings, set to launch Thursday but delayed until July. It isn't the only premier medical center to suffer in the ratings. A survey of hospitals by Vizient, a member-owned hospital organization focused on quality and performance, found that major teaching hospitals got disproportionately low marks.
With more than two-thirds of the patients the hospital sees on Medicare or Medicaid, Lincoln Community Hospital often doesn't get full reimburDaniel Brenner/High Country News This piece was originally published in High Country News and appears here as part of our Climate Desk Partnership. When the virus that causes COVID-19 began to spread in the Western US in March, medical centers started preparing. Hospitals cleared elective surgery schedules, stocked up on supplies and retrofitted facilities to care for patients with the novel coronavirus. But in preparing for the immediate crisis, rural hospitals worsened an ongoing one: They were running out of money, fast. Soon, they started cutting pay and laying off workers.
As the pandemic besieges the region's hospitals, its destructive sweep is being dispensed in unequal measures. While all hospitals across Los Angeles County are being slammed by waves of COVID-19 patients, those in lower-income, densely populated and nonwhite communities have been hit hardest and face the greatest challenge in providing care, according to a Times data analysis. Hospitals in South Los Angeles, the cities in Southeast L.A. County along the 710 Freeway and in parts of the southern San Gabriel Valley are experiencing the greatest capacity problems, the data showed. Many of these facilities are relatively small and are less able to add intensive care staff or expand bed capacity than the county's biggest hospitals. The data underscores how communities of color have been disproportionately hit by the pandemic, with Latino and Black residents far more likely to get the virus and die of it compared with whites.
When healthcare workers at Olympia Medical Center reported for work on New Year's Eve, they were prepared for another grueling day of patient care amid L.A.'s worsening COVID-19 surge. What they weren't prepared for was the laminated paper taped to the front door. "Olympia Medical Center has elected to voluntarily suspend all patient care services, including the emergency department and all emergency medical services, as of 11:59 p.m. on March 31, 2021," the notice said. Employees were outraged, blindsided and concerned, with one medical staff officer calling it a "terrible public health mistake" to close an L.A. hospital in the midst of the pandemic. "How can we be having an acute-care hospital shut down by March 31 when we need hospital beds, when they're putting up field hospitals and asking Navy ships to come back?" said the officer, Dr. Don Schiller.
Conditions at Los Angeles County hospitals are worsening by the day, forcing officials to take increasingly desperate measures to prevent the healthcare system from crumbling under a crush of COVID-19 patients. Methodist Hospital of Southern California has taken the grim step of convening a triage team that will "make the difficult, but necessary decisions about allocating limited resources" to critically ill patients "based on the best medical information available," officials said in a statement. Supplies of vital equipment, including ventilators, are tight, and there is limited availability of sufficiently staffed intensive care unit beds and healthy hospital workers, the Arcadia-based facility wrote in a public message to patients and their families. "If a patient becomes extremely ill and very unlikely to survive their illness, even with life-saving treatment, then certain resources currently limited in availability -- such as ICU care or a ventilator -- may be allocated to another patient who is more likely to survive," that message states. "If a ventilator or ICU care is not offered or is stopped, the patient has the right to ask their doctor for further detail regarding this decision, and will receive everything needed to ensure that they are free of pain or discomfort."