The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors moved Tuesday to explore the idea of creating a separate health authority to run the county's entire hospital system, acting on a scathing report on its management of troubled Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Center.

The near-unanimous vote, opposed only by Supervisor Mike Antonovich, calls for a task force led by the Chief Administrative Officer to report back with a draft blue print in 90 days if possible.

The board has commissioned similar studies in the past, but Supervisor Don Knabe, who put forward the motion, said they were largely conceptual. This time he called for a detailed analysis that would answer whether or not such a plan was feasible.

Earlier this month, Navigant Consulting Group released a highly critical study of the operations at MLK that called for the board to consider a hospital authority. Navigant was hired by the board in October to take over day-to-day operations of the hospital at a cost of $13.3 million.

The report found numerous deficiencies in the hospital's management, staff and physical facility, including doctor and nurse supervisors who did not exercise adequate oversight, poorly trained staff and dangerous environments in operating rooms and psychiatric wards.

The hospital has already lost various accreditations and is now facing the possible loss of $200 million in federal funds. In addition, the L.A. County District Attorney's Office is investigating a series of patient deaths at the hospital for possible criminal negligence.

Also Tuesday, the board voted to move ahead with a series of other recommendations in the Navigant report, including changing the management structure at the hospital and upgrading its facilities.

The Department of Health Services has estimated it will cost $3 million to upgrade and eliminate safety problems in the hospital's surgical suites and psychiatric ward.

The county runs five hospitals, including Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center and the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, which has established a national reputation for long-term rehabilitative care.

Antonovich has long maintained a health authority will only insert another layer of bureaucracy between the board and the hospitals.

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