Robert F. Kennedy Medical Center in Hawthorne, California was founded in 1926 as a maternity hospital. Dedicated to serving the community around it, the hospital proudly honored its mission statement:
(1) to deliver high quality, affordable health services with compassion the surrounding communities; (2) to provide direct care for the poor and disenfranchised; and (3) to partner with others in the community to improve the overall quality of life.
The Hospital placed great importance in its core values:
- DIGNITY: Respecting the inherent value and worth each person possesses as a member of the human family.
- STEWARDSHIP: Accountability for the human, financial and ecological resources entrusted to our care as we promote healing and wholeness.
- JUSTICE: Advocating for change of social structures that undermine human dignity, demonstrating a special concern for those who are poor.
- COLLABORATION: Working together with people who support common values and vision to achieve goals.
- EXCELLENCE: A shared commitment to quality in our work and services through teamwork and innovation.
The 274-bed facility closed on December 31, 2004. It was the sixth Los Angeles County emergency room that year to close due to financial concerns. Patients were forced to find other hospitals in the middle of Los Angeles County’s influenza season.
According to one local hospital executive from Centinela Hospital in Inglewood: “This is really a crisis. It won’t be possible for hospitals in RFK’s immediate vicinity to handle their ER volume.” RFK Medical Center joined the ranks of other hospitals in Los Angeles County who announced their closing, due in large part from the financial losses in treating uninsured and underinsured patients.
Between the mid-1980’s and 2004, 18 Los Angeles county emergency rooms closed, including ten trauma centers. According to the County’s head of emergency services, Carol Meyer: “It becomes a domino effect. What happens is those patients seeking emergency care go to the next hospital, which increases their load and potentially delays.”
In any one day, the hospital treated 65 patients in its emergency department, not to mention the 50 patients already admitted in the hospital. In a press release issued by the Hospital’s CEO, Larry Stahl:
“It is with deep regret that we must issue this notice because we cannot continue to sustain such severe financial losses,.” Stahl said. He added that during the past three years, RFKMC has implemented numerous financial turnaround initiatives to boost patient volume and reduce losses – efforts that did not sufficiently increase volume to offset costs. Between January 2002 and June 2005, it is projected that RFKMC will post losses from operations of $77 million. RFKMC is expected to lose $25 million in this fiscal year ending June 30, 2005. It lost $30 million from operations last fiscal year; $9 million in fiscal year 2003 and $13 million between January and June of 2002. In addition, $60 million was borrowed to cover previous losses prior to the hospital’s January 1, 2002 affiliation with the Daughters of Charity Health System (DCHS). Over the next 90 days, RFKMC will be considering alternative uses for the new tower and existing facility. RFKMC is more than 50 percent finished with the construction of a 65,000-square-foot patient tower that will meet all current seismic requirements.” It is clear that the present mix of services isn’t meeting the needs of the community and medical staff,” Stahl said. “The Daughters of Charity are committed to maintaining a health presence in the local community and will take the next 90 days to determine how best to meet the needs of the people we serve.” Stahl said that RFKMC officials are developing a transition plan for the hospital’s 645 full and part-time employees. “We’re going to do everything we can to ease the transition for our associates,” Stahl said. “We will be working with our sister facilities, St. Francis Medical Center and St. Vincent Medical Center, as well as other local providers, to help place our associates.”
RFK Medical Center treated patients in the South Bay for over 70 years. It was a comprehensive medical complex with a multi-speciality medical staff and 24 hour emergency department, providing adult and pediatric care.