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AVH Files Lawsuit Against L.A. County and Board of Supervisors

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Hospital receives less than one-half of 1 percent of Measure B funds annually, yet has the second highest volume of emergency patients in county

(Lancaster, Calif. – September 16, 2015) – Antelope Valley Hospital (AVH) has filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County and its board of supervisors for failing to properly administer and allocate billions of dollars of property tax revenue per Measure B to L.A. County trauma centers, particularly AVH. The lawsuit, filed yesterday, seeks equitable relief, economic damages, and other appropriate relief on behalf of AVH.

Approved by the county’s voters the year after the 9/11 disaster, Measure B assesses taxes to provide funding for the expansion of the county’s trauma centers and emergency medical services to ensure a timely and effective response to medical emergencies and threats of biological and chemical terrorism. AVH serves 5 percent of Los Angeles County’s population, yet receives less than one-half of 1 percent of all Measure B funds annually – less than any other trauma and non-trauma center in the county.

“Despite repeated reassurances from the county that AVH would receive its fair share of funding, our hospital has been all but forgotten by the county – in favor of those hospitals that are closer to the county seat,” said Pavel Petrik, M.D., chair of the department of surgery and trauma medical director at AVH. “Litigation is not our first choice, but all other avenues have been exhausted. As a not-for-profit district hospital, Antelope Valley Hospital is doing what we must to assure that we can continue to provide critically needed healthcare services to the thousands of L.A. County residents who rely on us daily.”

AVH’s lawsuit comes in the wake of a state audit that was critical of how the county is handling Measure B funds. According to the report, the county gave more money in the past few years to its own county-run non-trauma hospital than it gave to all 12 non-county-run trauma hospitals combined. The report also confirmed that L.A. County has mismanaged Measure B funding and, in a scathing review of the county’s actions, forcefully argues that the county must rethink its entire funding priorities.

“The report pointed out that the board of supervisors disbanded Measure B’s mandatory oversight committee – established to ensure proper distribution of the billions of dollars generated – leaving no independent oversight whatsoever,” said Dr. Petrik. “In short the will of the people is not being obeyed; and, as a result, AVH is being starved of the needed funds to support the safety-net role it has proudly assumed for 60 years.”

At present AVH sees 12.4 percent of L.A. County trauma and ER visits but gets only 2.9 percent of Measure B funds (among the non-county hospitals). In addition, under the current allocation, AVH (and UCLA) funding inexplicably stops after approximately six months while the other hospitals receive funding for the entire year.

AVH is currently being reimbursed slightly over $1 million per year. Using other non-county trauma hospitals as a benchmark, AVH should be receiving at least $12 million a year in Measure B funds. If the county was to agree to an appropriate allocation of Measure B funds to AVH, that sum would be less than three-tenths of 1 percent of the L.A. County Department of Health Services’ $3.8 billion budget but would be critical to keeping AVH in good health.

AVH provides an important link in the county’s overall delivery of services to its most needy residents. With the closure of High Desert Hospital in 2003, the county largely abandoned its responsibility for uncompensated inpatient care in the Antelope Valley. Due to its geographic isolation, most patients cared for by county outpatient services that require emergency services and hospitalization are referred to Antelope Valley Hospital, not UCLA Olive View.

Dr. Petrik says that for many years L.A. County has counted on AVH to fill in the gap and assume the burden of providing services well beyond its capacity. “We have accepted that responsibility despite the financial hardship it has placed on us,” he says. “But with a rapidly growing population there is increased stress on the availability of health services for the underserved. We are now at a point in the Antelope Valley where the currently dedicated resources can no longer cover the services required for area’s 500,000 residents. All we are seeking are the funds to which we are legally entitled.”

Antelope Valley Hospital is being represented by Patrick McNicholas of McNicholas & McNicholas, a Los Angeles-based plaintiff’s firm, and Brad Hertz of The Sutton Law Firm, a California-based political and election law firm.

About Antelope Valley Hospital

Celebrating 60 years of caring for the community, Antelope Valley Hospital is located in the city of Lancaster in northern Los Angeles County. The 420-bed district hospital is a Level II trauma center and provides a full array of medical/surgical services, pediatric treatment, NICU, mental health, cancer care and more. More information is available at www.avhospital.org or by calling 661-949-5000.