Link to What's New This Week Problems at Martin Luther King Hospital in L.A.

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Created: December 6, 2004
Latest Update: December 6, 2004

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Index of Topics on Site Governance Discourse on King/Drew
For the Naked Space Exhibit, Andrea Richie put together a creative and attention-getting piece on the problems the community is likely to encounter if King/Drew's Emergency Center is closed. Her three-dimensional maze and it's emergency center seeking ambulance remind us that most of the UCLA and USC county hospitals are going to require essential time that makes the difference between life and death in medical crises.

This is an important validity claim and one most of us helped Andrea gather signatures for to present to the County Board of Supervisors. Because one of those emergency centers saved my life, I wholeheartedly support the community's demand for emergency medical care. I ended up at County-USC, where they took wonderful care of me seven years ago. I would like to know that others will have that same life-saving opportunity if and when it becomes necessary.

On Sunday, December 5, 2004, the Los Angeles Times began a five part series on the problems at MLK. The first two articles of this series are giving me information of which I was totally unaware. A neurosurgeon who has been paid a million dollars in two years, and has done almost no surgeries, written or co-written few articles. Other administrators receiving exorbitant sums. Employees receiving huge sums for seemingly minor work-related accidents, like falling off chairs; employees who don't show up for work, and many who feel that getting by is all that's called for. This information doesn't invalidate the validity claim we expressed that emergency care must be available to the community. It does, however, raise questions about why the situation has come about and what we must do to fix it.

As we discuss this, I'm going to ask you to go back to theories about how we learn, how that learning is measured, and how the bureaucratic enterprise, be it government or corporation, manages to maintain quality of services and products. MLK is comprised of both a hospital and a medical school. It has a largely Black staff and administration.It originated after the Watts riots to meet a very real and necessary need. So, how has all this happened, and what can we, individual citizens, do about it?

In the first two articles, and in earlier pieces I have heard on television or read, there is a suggestion that the staff at MLK is either demoralized and not dedicated to their work, or incompetent. To say that, about the city's only largely Black-run hospital is to confront issues of racism and affirmative action. Lots of affect. So we need to allow the affect to be expressed, which we have already done to some extent in our support of the need for emergency care in the area. Now we need to ask what we mean, specifically, about demoralization and imcompetence.

Neither one of those social constructs can be easily measured. They are, after all, social constructs. And they are about training, education, and professional competence, that we are used to viewing in terms of credentialing and certification and professional committees. But we have done an exceptionally poor job of education in this country, as echoed from our pre-schools to our professional schools. For example, what does how many articles a neurosurgeon publishes have to do with his competence. Presumably, all these people have passed credentialing or certification tests, so why aren't they competent and professionally committed if the tests measure that?

I certainly don't presume to have all the answers. But I do presume to understand something about education. We started out this semester on the theory that all of you were here to learn and become competent at governance discourse in several areas of study. Because that was our shared goal, we presumed we would succeed together. We encountered lots of problems along the way, like list servs that wouldn't provide archives, and the need to switch over to Yahoo, and the need to provide a forum in which you could learn this very different approach to education.

Starting with the assumption that you each intended to earn an A placed us in a collaborative framework in which my role was to find misunderstandings, and help you toward that goal, whenever we encountered problems. It was messy. Learning always is. Performance is neat. Our exhibition was our performance. But along the way there were lots of surprises; startling innovation; and quite a lot of visual sociology talent. Instead of competing, we worked together, whenever and however we could. And it produced a competent product to which most of us were committed enough that anyone who displayed non-commitment would have, and did, receive community disapproval, collectively.

I would like you to think about that model as you read the Los Angeles Times articles in this series. I would like you to wonder if it would help if there were supervisors available who used the same model of teaching and learning. How it would be if the doctors making millions took the same approach. Sure people make mistakes. And as the supervisor catches them, and teaches how to avoid them, people learn. And when the entire enterprise is committed to a successful outcome, those who don't make an effort, those who try to rip off the enterprise and the community, are handled by social control.

I would give my eye teeth to try this at MLK. But I don't even know how I could reach anyone that matters, anyone who could get them to listen to what we learned this semester. But then, maybe some of you do. There is empowerment in governance discourse.

love and peace can sometimes do more than war. jeanne


The Los Angeles Times:

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