I didn’t give it any thought when my boss asked me to attend the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor’s meeting on his behalf to discuss the possible closure of King-Drew—-no I’m sorry make that King-Harbor Hospital in Watts. I also didn’t give any thought to the news that Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca had been ordered to appear before the Los County Board of Supervisor’s on his decision to release hotel heiress Paris Hilton on home confinement due to medical conditions just three days after her initial confinement.
But maybe I should have.
In case you’re not from Los Angeles or you’ve been living under a rock, Martin Luther King Jr. Harbor Hospital is in danger of having its licensed revoked and being closed down due to the death of a 43-year-old woman on the floor of the emergency room lobby after waiting for services for 45 minutes. Then there’s the brain-tumor patient who waited four days without treatment before his family and friends drove him to another county hospital for emergency surgery. These are just a few in a long line of fatal mishaps at the hospital.
So the Board of Supervisor’s is now faced with making a decision of what to do with a hospital that sees 47,000 uninsured and poor people a year.
Seems pretty important don’t you think.
Well, apparently not when it comes to anything remotely Paris Hilton related.
Head Sheriff Lee Baca had been ordered to report at 12 Noon to his bosses, the County Board of Supervisor’s and justify the reasons behind Hilton’s release. They wanted to know why jail medical facilities were not appropriate to treat her and why he allowed her to go home just three days after she began her stay in the Los Angeles County Jail for driving on a suspended license after being caught driving under the influence.
When I stepped into the Hall of Administration’s Chambers, I was immediately taken aback with the amount of press that was there. And I thought to myself, “Wow, the news is really interested in the fate of this hospital.” How naive can I be? It finally dawned on me when I saw an Entertainment Tonight crew that they weren’t there for the hospital, they were there for Paris Hilton by way of the Sheriff.
And just when that wasn’t enough, in comes attorney Gloria Allred and her client who served time at the Lynwood jail, just like Paris did, and claims she did not receive special medical care.
So let me set the stage.
During the lengthy debate on the issue of King-Harbor hospital which included the ramifications of closing the institution that serves so many and what steps would have to be taken to facilitate the change, most of the media is watching guess who? Baca and Allred.
I mean, who cares about a hospital in Watts closing when you’ve got the Sheriff and Gloria Allred in Chambers?
And to make matters much worse, and I didn’t think that they (the media) could go any lower, Baca gets up and steps out of the Chambers to get something to eat and not one, not two, but about fifteen cameras and their reporters jump up and run after him out of the Chamber doors in the middle of critical testimony on the hospital closing causing Supervisor Zev Yaroslasky to stop in mid-sentence to accommodate the stampede making its way after Baca.
I just shook my head in disbelief.
How does the Sheriff getting a baloney sandwhich compare with 47,000 people without emergency medical sentences. It doesn’t. But you can’t tell that to the news and infotainment media.
I even brought the issue up with one of our favorite brothers over at KTLA, Walter Richards, and you know what his reponse was? I take my orders from the news desk. Sorry Warren, I expected better than that from you. There wasn’t even a hint of embarassment from him about the situation.
Now that’s truly pathetic and a clear indication of where we are as a society when news producers think we’re more interested in the Sheriff getting lunch than the closure of a hospital that serves the poor.
No wonder the news of Paris Hilton’s release trumped the fire in Lake Tahoe and the closure of a much-needed hospital. After all, America is obsessed White blond haired women. Right? Wrong!
Jasmyne Cannick n is a social commentator and activist who is known for addressing the issues others can’t or simply won’t. Chosen as one of ESSENCE Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World, at 29, Jasmyne is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and writes a popular daily blog at jasmynecannick.com and myspace.com/jasmynecannick. She resides in Los Angeles and can be reached at