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February 18, 2021
David W. Johnson
COVID-19 Economics
Blogs Dispatches

COVID-19 Treatment and Referrals: Are You Kidding Me!

California is on my mind this week. Tuesday’s Dispatch highlighted extreme pricing differences for identical procedures at California Pacific Medical Center. Today, I turn my winter gaze to Los Angeles where COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths spiked to alarming levels in January.

A recent New York Times article chronicles COVID-19 care at Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital, a new but small 138-bed hospital serving low-income communities in South Central LA. During January, MLK treated more COVID-19 patients than much larger and more prestigious nearby hospitals.

Compromised COVID-19 treatment became routine at MLK: no convalescent plasma; limited monoclonal antibodies; no extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO); limited kidney dialysis; no external lung machines; limited specialized staff; no experimental treatments. One afternoon, 104 patients overwhelmed MLK’s 29-bed emergency room, many awaiting admission into the hospital’s overcrowded ICU.

Committed caregivers worked 12-hour shifts in “war zone” conditions. Despite their heroic efforts, 86% of MLK’s COVID-19 patients on ventilators died, well above the national averages. 

LA County’s most impoverished residents have died from COVID-19 at four times the rate of its wealthiest residents. Only 4% of MLK’s patients carry commercial health insurance. Better-equipped hospitals refused to admit MLK’s sickest patients for advanced COVID-19 treatments. Draw your own conclusions.

When access to appropriate care diminishes, more people die. As exhibited in LA County, U.S. healthcare’s inability and/or unwillingness to equitably treat COVID-19 patients has dramatically increased the disease’s virulence. The human toll caused by this medical malfeasance is catastrophic. When will we ever learn?

Read all dispatches from Dave Johnson here

About the Author

David W. Johnson

David Johnson is the CEO of 4sight Health, an advisory company working at the intersection of healthcare strategy, economics, innovation. Johnson is a healthcare thought leader, keynote speaker, and strategic advisor to organizations busting the status-quo to reform our healthcare system. He is the author of Market vs. Medicine: America’s Epic Fight for Better, Affordable Healthcare, and his second book, The Customer Revolution in Healthcare: Delivering Kinder, Smarter, Affordable Care for All (McGraw-Hill 2019). As a speaker, Dave plays the role of rebel, challenger, industry historian, investor and company evaluator to push audiences forward. (Watch bio video.) Johnson applies his 25+ years of investment banking in healthcare to identify ways the healthcare industry must change to deliver better care. He received a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School, an English degree from Colgate University, and served in the African Peace Corp service. Join over 10k+ healthcare executives who read our weekly insights and commentary on www.4sighthealth.com. His third book, Less Healthcare, More Health: The Prescription for a Happier, More Equitable and Productive America, will publish in 2024.

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