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Victory For Rancho Los Amigos Rehab Center

by Chantel G. Thursday, May. 08, 2003 at 3:01 PM
. . .


Victory For Rancho Los Amigos Rehab Center

Judge Prevents Service Reduction As County Moves Toward Facility Closure

Apr 30, 2003 7:17 am US/Pacific

LOS ANGELES (AP) A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order that prevents the county from reducing services as it moves to close Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey.

U.S. District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper's ruling Tuesday was a victory for a coalition of Rancho patients who sued to prevent the hospital's scheduled June 30 closure.

The temporary restraining order remains in place while she considers a more permanent injunction to prevent Rancho's closure until the county can prove comparable services will be made available. Another hearing will be held May 6.

"It appears that, unless a restraining order is issued immediately, plaintiffs and a class of similarly situated Medi-Cal recipients will suffer irreparable injury," Cooper wrote in her decision.

County officials failed to prove to the court that comparable services will be made available to disabled Medi-Cal patients after Rancho's closure.

"After due consideration, the court has also concluded that there is a very strong likelihood that the plaintiffs will prevail at trial on the merits of the claims in their complaint," the judge wrote.

The ruling also states that a lawsuit by three Rancho patients can move forward as a class-action, representing all present and future Rancho patients on Medi-Cal.

The restraining order prevents the county from "terminating, reducing or making any further reductions in any inpatient or outpatient medical service at Rancho which is covered by a Medi-Cal program; or giving notice to any persons of any termination, reduction or further reduction in inpatient and outpatient service at Rancho."

The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 in January to close Rancho in an effort to offset a projected 9 million budget deficit by 2007. Operating Rancho costs the county roughly million annually.

Judge Stops County From Closing Rehab Center

Spokesman: County Plans To Appeal Ruling

UPDATED: 7:28 a.m. PDT May 7, 2003

LOS ANGELES -- A federal judge has decided that a Los Angeles County rehab center will not be closed -- at least not yet. U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper ordered a temporary injunction against closing the 150-bed Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey Tuesday.

The order comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the Western Law Center for Disability Rights and other advocacy groups for the disabled.

Judge Cooper found that "many of the needs of these patients and hundreds like them, could not and would not be met" if the center was closed.

County officials had planned to close the hospital on June 30 to save more than million in the budget for health services.

Health Service spokesman John Wallace said the county plans to appeal the ruling.

Hundreds of patients and employees of Los Angeles County hospitals, including Rancho Los Amigos, protested last week.

County Supervisors discussed letting voters decide if they want more taxes to cover the budget shortage for area hospitals.

Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite-Burke suggested an increased alcohol tax for the county to cover millions lost in budget cuts at a supervisors meeting Tuesday.

"Our deficit is not our making," Supervisor Gloria Molina said.

"We're not asking the state to deplete it's treasury ... We're asking the state to give the people of this county the right to decide for itself whether it wants to tax a vodka martini," supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said.

The three supervisors believe that an alcohol tax can raise millions to save facilities like Rancho Los Amigos.

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