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New year will bring a high-tech hospital to South L.A.


As the seasons change, most everyone is looking forward to the holidays. But those living in South Los Angeles are anticipating the spring of 2015, and the grand opening of a really big present—the new Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital.

“I’m most looking forward to being a center of excellence for the community,” Dr. Elaine Batchlor said during a recent tour of the facility. “It’s all about taking care of people. That’s why I went into medicine. It’s exciting to have a place that’s beautiful and state-of-the-art to care for the community.”

Batchlor, 56, was appointed CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital (MLKCH) two years ago. But she doesn’t lead a very large staff quite yet.

“We have about 37 on staff now, and we’re ramping up to 800,” Batchlor said. “The real work comes when we have to hire and train those 800 to work effectively as a team.”

That team will be working in the brand new facility, built to house the most up-to-date medical equipment available, including an electronic health records system with portable computers on wheels in patient care areas.

The first leg of Batchlor’s tour led past vacant desks and chairs in admissions, and through an empty 21-bed emergency room, intensive care and radiology areas, strategically located close together on the first floor to provide quick and convenient care for ER patients.

Batchlor smiled when she was asked if it’s pretty cool for an administrator to start a new venture in a new facility—a hospital which she has been instrumental in planning and creating from the ground up.

“It’s cool, but it’s also a lot of work,” she said. “It’s a lot of work because you’re starting from scratch.”

The new Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital is a private, non-profit safety-net hospital governed by an independent, eight-member board of directors. As part of the coordinating agreement between the County of Los Angeles and the University of California, UCLA will play a leading role in developing and maintaining medical care quality standards.

Construction began in 2010, after the county and the University of California jointly sponsored AB 2599 to ensure the long-term financial viability of the new hospital.

Although the building is finished and most of the furniture has been installed, Cerner, the electronic health records system, is still being wired throughout the facility and an assortment of vital health equipment is being tested and integrated into that system.

“Now we’re building our medical staff,” Batchlor said, noting that the bright, roomy, high-tech operating room has been a real selling point during staff recruitment. “We have a great group of doctors coming together.”

A number of doctors will be coming from UCLA, where some are currently teaching or conducting research. These doctors will also be developing the rules, regulations, processes and standards for the entire MLKCH medical staff.

In the UC system/county of Los Angeles coordination agreement, UC promised to assist with hiring the chief medical officer, develop the hospital’s graduate medical education program and assist with other pre-opening activities.

Additionally, Kaiser Permanente’s community benefits program has provided $2 million in grant money to expand the obstetrics unit that will support double the number of deliveries as the old facility.

Although the old hospital, which ceased operations in 2007, had more than 400 beds, Batchlor explained that the new facility, though it includes 131 licensed beds, will serve more patients throughout its larger healthcare campus.

“Medicine is moving toward combining inpatient and outpatient services,” she said. “We have a brand new outpatient facility next door that wasn’t there before. There will be an integrated system of care coordination between the two.

“Ideally, when you provide enough care and outpatient services, you will have fewer admissions to the hospital,” Batchlor added. “Our goal is to keep people healthy.”

The hospital is just one part of the master plan for the campus, which includes other buildings for medical offices, urgent care, homeless recuperative care, skilled nursing, rehabilitative care and senior housing.

Parts of the MLK Mental Health facility will be open 24/7 and will include behavioral medicine and treatment for substance abuse.

Batchlor said that although the various facilities will be run separately, Urgent Care Center within the co-located medical care model, they will share the same patients and provide “warm hand-offs” for care.

If by chance a patient does have to stay on one of the three colorful floors of single-patient rooms, each room has pull-out couches to accommodate family overnights.

“It’s part of our patient-centered care,” Batchlor said. “One of the advantages of being new is that you get the latest equipment.”

Patients will watch educational videos about their condition and be able to order meals using their interactive televisions. They will be sleeping in “smart beds,” which will weigh them while they are laying down and alert nurses via smartphone apps when non-ambulatory patients are trying to climb over their bed rails.

In addition to the 131 licensed beds, the LEED-certified building includes 21 beds in the emergency department; 12 beds in the post-anesthesia care unit; 11 bassinets in the nursery; eight fast-track stations in the ER; and two C-section rooms in labor and delivery.

Through its mission—providing compassionate, collaborate, quality care and improving community health—MLKCH promises to ensure a high-quality, high-tech and high-touch healthcare experience for patients and their families regardless of citizenship status or ability to pay.

The hospital’s mission matches Batchlor’s priorities—expanding access to high-quality care for underserved communities. She has more than 25 years of healthcare experience, including serving on the executive leadership team of L.A. Care Health Plan, the nation’s largest public health plan.

As chief medical officer, she was instrumental in developing a care delivery model that expanded access and resources to more than a million individuals throughout L.A. County. She spearheaded provider adoption of health information technology, physician usage of electronic health records and telemedicine to improve access and provide integrated, patient-centered care for Los Angeles’ Medi-Cal population.

Batchlor’s resume also includes stints with the California HealthCare Foundation, Prudential Health Care, CIGNA Health Plan of California/Ross Loos Medical Group and the UCLA School of Medicine, where she served as a clinical instructor.

Batchlor received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, a master’s degree in Public Health from UCLA and a doctorate of medicine from Case Western Reserve University. She completed her internship, residency and fellowship at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

“Community care is not just what goes on inside these walls,” she said. “Working together with our partners and the network of healthcare providers at the Willowbrook campus and beyond, I know we can succeed in bringing high-quality healthcare to the community.”