imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Subscribe Calendar Publish RSS
Features
latest news
best of news
syndication
commentary


KILLRADIO

VozMob

CopWatch LA

ABCF LA

A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List

LAAMN List





IMC Network: www.indymedia.org africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech
printable version - js reader version - email this article - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

Death in Los Angeles hospital exposes social crisis in US

by rafeal azul Friday, Jun. 22, 2007 at 10:26 PM

Edith Isabel Rodriguez died on May 9th while two people called the emergency services phone number, 911, frantically trying to get her medical help. She died just outside the emergency room in Los Angeles’ King-Harbor hospital after spending hours seeking treatment for a steadily worsening condition. The entire tragedy reveals the strained and unhealthy state of social relations in America today. The case received much media attention in recent weeks after the release of tape recordings of the 911 calls and a hospital video showing Rodriguez in the hours before her death—including segments showing a janitor mopping up around Rodriguez as she writhed in pain on the floor of the emergency room.


These recordings show that despite the best efforts of Rodriguez’s husband and the pleading of a second caller, Rodriguez received no assistance. Finally, when her pain became impossible to ignore, someone in the ER summoned the police, who proceeded to arrest Rodriguez on an outstanding warrant. Rodriguez, 43, a mother of three, died as she was being placed in a squad car at 1:50 a.m.

No doubt these images strike a common chord. How is it possible that Rodriguez died in such agony, while being completely ignored by those who were supposed to help her?

Rodriguez’s death did not elicit great media concern at first. The Los Angeles Times first reported the tragedy on June 2nd, three weeks after her death. The county coroner determined that it was accidental and due to a ruptured bowel. The body was released to her family members. She was not buried until June 12, since it took her family over a month to raise the money needed to give her a decent funeral. Indeed, if it were not for the recordings, her death would have gone the way of so many similar incidents across the country—that is, it would have been ignored.

Media attention has focused almost entirely on the reactions of the 911 operators, including the responses of an operator who treated with apparent contempt the pleadings of one caller who sought to get help to Rodriguez. To stop at the actions of the individual operators or the hospital staff, however, serves to obscure the more fundamental issues involved.

King-Harbor hospital is located in South Central LA, one of the poorest sections of the metropolis. The McCone Commission, appointed to report on the causes of the 1965 Watts riot, determined that lack of access to medical care was one of the main grievances of the 1.5 million residents of Watts, Willowbrook and Compton, which make up part of South Central. The hospital was something of a concession to residents and opened its doors in 1972.

In its heyday, Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital (renamed King-Harbor only recently) was lauded for its world-class quality and for its many services to the community. However, the social conditions that underlay the riots in the 1960s were not addressed, and this could not but have a profound impact on the hospital itself. In contrast with unemployment rates of 2 or 3 percent in Santa Monica or Orange County, South Central Los Angeles has double-digit unemployment—in some areas higher than 20 percent. Infant mortality in South Central—13 per 1,000 births—is the highest in California and twice the state average.

A hospital in many ways concentrates within its doors the social ills in the community at large, magnifying these ills a hundredfold. Drug abuse, violent crime and gang shootings, the persistent and corrosive effects of poverty upon the physical health of a community, the flooding of emergency rooms by poor workers or unemployed residents unable to afford health insurance—all of this places great strains on the staff, which is invariably overworked and underpaid.

Moreover, a hospital like King-Harbor will have continual difficulties trying to attract the most qualified staff. Those who can will often work elsewhere, in better-funded hospitals in more prosperous areas. Recent reports indicate that 60 percent of the nurses at the hospital failed parts of competency examinations. There are no doubt many extremely dedicated doctors and nurses at King-Harbor, as there are at any hospital, but this by itself is inadequate without the devotion of sufficient social resources.

Rodriguez herself suffered from many of the problems endemic to the area. She had no steady job or address. She survived on odd-jobs and lived with relatives. In the coroner’s ruling, Rodriguez is described as a “quasi-transient” woman with a history of abusing drugs. There is evidence that she used methamphetamines, a highly addictive stimulant that is an increasing problem in the US. Like other patients of the hospital, she represented those that society had left behind.

Rodriguez had been in the ER three days in a row prior to her death. Each time she was given pain medication and sent home. She had been discharged from the ER a few hours before her death, with an appointment and instructions to see a doctor if she had more pain of vomiting. When she came in again, assisted by the police, the triage nurse mentioned that Rodriguez was a “regular” patient and told her that they could do nothing else for her. A Los Angeles Times report speculates that Rodriguez was known to the ER staff and considered to be a “complainer.”

It is not difficult to imagine a likely perspective of the hospital workers who refused to treat Rodriguez. Perhaps they were angered by her repeated visits. Perhaps they blamed her to some extent for her apparent drug problems, adopting an individualist approach to such social problems that is common in the US. Perhaps they did not quite believe her complaints of extreme pain. No doubt coarsened by the continual trauma of death that transpired within the hospital doors, for whatever reason there was no attempt to help Rodriguez as she suffered and ultimately died. This is not to excuse the treatment Rodriguez received, but it is necessary to understand where it comes from.

The bureaucratic and Kafkaesque response to the working poor is not limited to a handful of overworked Los Angeles nurses or emergency dispatchers. Across this country the citizens of the inner cities or rural areas, the elderly, the mentally ill, and those battling addictions have often become invisible to overburdened and underfunded institutions that provide barely minimal service at the lowest possible cost.

Individuals who work within these institutions can come at times to reflect the indifference, even hostility, that official society has for the lives of the broad mass of the people. Such was evidently the case with the 911 calls made in an attempt to get Rodriguez treatment when none was forthcoming at the hospital itself.

There were two calls to 911 dispatchers, one by José Ponce, Rodriguez’s common-law husband, another by an unknown woman, possibly another patient waiting at the ER. During the second call, the 911 dispatcher insisted that “you are at a hospital” and that, “I can’t do anything for you for the quality of the hospital.” He berated the caller for improperly using the 911 system to complain about the hospital’s poor quality of care. Interrupting the caller on a number of occasions, he insisted that no crime was taking place and that the fire department paramedics would in all likelihood not respond to an emergency inside a hospital.

People are coarsened, but they are reflecting a coarsened society. To the extent that they may exhibit indifference, that they may lose for a period certain basic instincts of compassion—or these instincts may become weakened—it is a reflection of a more profound indifference, and sickness, in the social structure itself.

Contemporary American society is characterized by enormous levels of social inequality. The vast majority of society’s resources are controlled by a small minority, directed toward the accumulation of profit and personal wealth, with only a few relatively small crumbs left for such essential social services as health care. From the standpoint of the ruling elite, people like Rodriguez are expendable. Less directly, the continual barbarism of the American government must have an effect—the war in Iraq, Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib. Particularly in the absence of an organized political opposition, these examples of indifference and contempt for human life on a grand scale, coupled by the relentless propaganda of the media, are bound to filter down into the consciousness of certain layers of the population.

Rodriguez’s case is hardly unique at King-Harbor hospital. Beginning in 2003, a series of reports in the Los Angeles Times shed light on substandard care that had led to the deaths of several patients, attributed to neglect and lack of training for nurses. Inspections by federal authorities in 2004 and 2006 resulted in the partial closure of the hospital, including the elimination of the trauma center. The hospital now has only 48 beds and is a hospital of last resort. Citizens of South Central dubbed it “killer King,” to be avoided by whoever has the transportation to go elsewhere.

King-Harbor is typical of many other inner city hospitals, such as the notorious Greater Southeast hospital in Washington D.C. and Detroit’s Riverview, which are equally deficient. In New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other states, inner-city medical services are being gutted, public hospitals closed, and medical care outsourced to private institutions much more concerned with their bottom line than with the quality of life of inner city residents.

In California, years of neglect and funding cuts have has a serious impact on public hospitals in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities. The problems at King-Harbor are being used by the federal government to threaten a cut off of federal funding, threats that have been renewed after the death of Rodriguez. This will only further intensify the underlying social problems.

The media concern for Edith Rodriguez lasted only a few days. Networks and newspapers are already moving on to the next item.
Report this post as:
Share on: Twitter, Facebook, Google+

add your comments


Local News

Jewish “Defense” League: Nazis in Skull-caps A07 11:13AM

Nuke Shutdown News 3/17 A01 4:13PM

RELATIONS STILL STRAINED BETWEEN SOUTH LOS ANGELES RESIDENTS AND THE POLICE M22 3:22PM

Elect a Green to Congress in Los Angeles M15 2:18AM

Prop. H Activists March on Hollywood to House and Help the Homeless M01 1:46PM

Prop. H Activists March on Hollywood to House and Help the Homeless M01 1:09PM

Prop. H Activists March on Hollywood to House and Help the Homeless M01 12:19PM

24TH ANNUAL LOS ANGELES WOMEN’S THEATRE FESTIVAL HONORS COMPOSER MEGAN CAVALLARI ON MARCH F24 2:40PM

Activists Mark 150 Years Since Chimney Rock Massacre F21 7:00PM

Indivisible local events F16 4:07PM

Help Wanted: How You Can Act Locally To Stymie Trump’s Agenda F16 11:24AM

RACE RELAY - race relations dialogue F16 7:01AM

LA County Greens Oppose S F09 8:52PM

Our Revolution L.A Organizing Meeting F08 12:23AM

First We Marched. Now We Huddle F06 10:54PM

Indigenous, Sacred Lands Disrespected at L.A. Women's March J24 1:52PM

Massive Women's March Los Angeles Tells President Donald Where To Go J23 8:22PM

Massive Women's March Los Angeles Tells President Donald Where To Go J23 8:00PM

Massive Women's March Los Angeles Tells President Donald Where To Go J23 7:42PM

Massive Women's March Los Angeles Tells President Donald Where To Go J23 6:04PM

Massive Women's March Los Angeles Tells President Donald Where To Go J23 5:48PM

Massive Women's March Los Angeles Tells President Donald Where To Go J23 5:30PM

Massive Women's March Los Angeles Tells President Donald Where To Go J23 5:02PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

Puerto Rico Religious Leaders Call for Bankruptcy Ahead of "Vulture Fund" Deadline A25 6:55AM

The Missile Attack Ordered by Trump is a Serious Crime A25 5:55AM

"Train to Zakopane’ Starring Tanna Frederick World Premiere at Jewish Film Festival A24 4:22PM

Polish citizens attacked by electromagnetic weapons - Opoen letter to European Commission A23 11:50AM

Video: March for Science, April 22, 2017, 4 hours A22 3:05PM

Social Security works. Don't let Trump destroy it A22 2:25PM

Get The Internationalist No. 47! A21 8:39PM

The Shortwave Report 04/21/17 Listen Globally! A20 4:45PM

Reich USA A19 9:03PM

Reich A19 8:56PM

Trumponomics: Failure Pre-Programmed A19 7:37AM

Global Economic Risks Ahead Warns International Monetary Fund A19 6:49AM

IMF Warns of "Protectionism" and Risky Investing A18 7:44AM

Rigged reform - Oxfam Media Briefing, April 12, 2017 A17 6:51AM

Les élections du capital et du système A17 12:20AM

San Diego warships leading charge against North Korea A15 4:09PM

Source, encodeur, signal, décodeur, destinataire A15 3:42AM

Illegal Purchase Of Execution Drugs As Ark. GOP Gov Hutchinson Seeks To Murder 8 Prisoner A14 12:14PM

Puerto Rico Oversight Board Mediates Last Ditch Debt Negotiations A14 7:25AM

Poverty Returns with Misguided Policy A14 4:50AM

La mémoire des vaincus, les vrais vainqueurs A14 3:57AM

The Shortwave Report 04/14/17 Listen Globally! A13 4:59PM

A13 12:58AM

Eschatologie stochastique A13 12:40AM

EROTIC, POP & ABSTRACT ART AT: DavidGoldnerDesign.com A12 11:21AM

Violence A11 5:17PM

Gramsci on US President Trump: "Delicate and Dangerous" A11 5:16AM

Le culte de la charogne A10 10:20AM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2003 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy