Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Pressure to Keep Olympia Medical Center Open Increasing

Cathy Kennedy of the California Nurses Association conducted a virtual press conference urging the public and public officials to keep Olympia Medical Center open during the pandemic.

Representatives of the California Nurses Association held a virtual press conference with health care workers and emergency officials on Wednesday, calling for public officials and members of the public to pressure Alecto Healthcare Services and UCLA Health to find a way to keep Olympia Medical Center open past the March 31st closing date hospital operator Alecto announced on December 31, 2020.

Cathy Kennedy, of CNA leadership, also announced a grassroots email and letter writing campaign to UCLA Health officials if efforts to compel Alecto to keep the hospital open fail. CNA represents nearly 450 registered nurses who work at the hospital, and has publicly said the organization is determined to fiercely fight and prevent the planned closure, scheduled for Mar. 31, 2021, in order to preserve desperately needed health care and emergency services for their patients and the mid-Wilshire community.

Citing statistics that nearly a quarter of the patients who use the Olympia emergency department are Latino, and some forty percent are African American, Kennedy said we cannot allow the hospital to close when so many of the patients it serves are currently facing such enormous health risks from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

As we reported last week, the LA County Emergency Management Services Commission voted unanimously to recommend the County Board of Supervisors take action to keep the hospital open during the unprecedented pandemic. Doug Zabilski, a battalion chief in the Los Angeles Fire Department’s Emergency Services Bureau, joined emergency room nurse Shenita Anderson, who works at Olympia Medical Center, in making the case for keeping the hospital open at least during the worst parts of the pandemic. Both Zabilski and Anderson also gave testimony at the EMS Commission hearing. Emily Carrera and David Yamada, both nurses at UCLA Reagan Medical Center, also urged their employer to step in and do the right thing.

“Alecto doesn’t care, but I believe that UCLA can do better,” said David Yamada. “Do we not have a moral obligation to lessen the impact that this closure will have on those who have been hit the hardest by this pandemic?” asked Yamada. “We need to keep it open for a time during the worst part of the pandemic.”

Leneé Richards read a statement from LA County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, who she said stands in solidarity with the California Nurses Association, healthcare workers, and the community in opposing the closure of the hospital during the pandemic:

“The closure of Olympia Medical Center that is currently operated by Alecto Health Services is an immense loss during a time when we need every healthcare resource imaginable to end this pandemic that continues to devastate Los Angeles county and disproportionately impact the residents of the second supervisorial  district. Although Los Angeles County can not prevent the sale of this privately owned medical facility, I share the disappointment residents and healthcare workers rightfully feel about its closing and I am calling on Alecto Health Services to be accountable. It has been reported that Alecto Health Services  received millions in COVID stimulus money, my question is where did that money go and why Olympia closing?”

“Alecto might have made their decision but we are not giving up on our community receiving the health care services it needs when it needs it the most.”

Statements were also read from LA City Councilmembers Nithya Raman and Mark Ridley-Thomas, who did not attend because they were at a City Council meeting, introducing a resolution calling on Alecto Healthcare and UCLA Heath to reach a timely resolution for continuing care at Olympia Medical Center and to delay the suspension of services for a minimum of six months.

“COVID-19 has placed an enormous burden on Los Angeles’s health care system, and on its healthcare workers,” Raman said in a joint press statement. “Today, there are still only a few dozen ICU beds available in all of Los Angeles County. Now is not the time to consider any reduction in emergency services capacity in Los Angeles. Now is not the time to lay off hundreds of healthcare workers who have gone above and beyond and risked their lives during this pandemic.”

“We are in the middle of an unprecedented public health crisis and closing a hospital is the last thing that should happen at this moment. It will exacerbate the strain that the surrounding communities of color face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and compound the stress on an already fragile healthcare safety net,” said Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas in a joint press statement. “I stand with Councilmember Raman in calling for all parties to come to a timely resolution for the continuation of this critical facility.”

Council staff told the Buzz that the resolution was referred to the Rules, Elections, and Intergovernmental Relations committee.  It will be heard at the next committee meeting on 2/17, and then go to the full council for a vote.

So far, UCLA Healthcare is sticking with its position that the sale is a real estate transaction…but they have agreed to lease the hospital back to Alecto to keep the hospital open through the end of the year, if Alecto should choose to do so.

In a statement provided to the Buzz, UCLA Health wrote:

“As healthcare workers who see first-hand the need for medical support services, UCLA Health has provided the current operator, Alecto, with the ability to keep Olympia Medical Center’s open to help manage the current volume of COVID-19 patients. Additionally, we are encouraged by the ongoing dialogue between Alecto and LA County EMS, including ensuring the hospital is adequately staffed for services. We reiterate our effort to continue providing assistance in services to our collective community of Los Angeles.

In 2021, UCLA Health will be launching an initial planning process for a state-of-the-art major facility renovation of the former Olympia Campus. The initial plans will include exploration of inpatient and outpatient mental health services – a dire and unmet need in Los Angeles County with few and shrinking providers of inpatient care. UCLA Health is committed to providing access to care for patients who need our services. With the addition of this campus, located in the Mid-Wilshire area, we have the ability to expand that access and add hundreds of health care jobs in LA County. This planning process, which will commence soon, will inform key activities including timing. We will provide regular updates to the community along the way.”

Alecto Healthcare plans to close Olympia Medical Center March 31, 2021. (photo from Olympia Medical Center)
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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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