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It wasn’t exactly an emergency, but Michael Reed, a security guard who lives in Watts, had back pain and ran out of his blood pressure medication. Unsure where else to turn, he went to his local emergency room for a refill.
Around the same time, James Woodard, a homeless man, appeared for his third visit that week. He wasn’t in medical distress. Nurses said he was likely high on meth and just looking for a place to rest.
In an overflow tent outside, Edward Green, a restaurant cook, described hearing voices and needing medication for his bipolar disorder.
The three patients were among dozens who packed the emergency room at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital, a bustling healthcare complex in South Los Angeles reincarnated from the old hospital known as “Killer King” for its horrific patient care. The new campus serves the 1.3 million residents of Willowbrook, Compton, Watts and other neighborhoods — a heavily Black and Latino population that suffers disproportionately high rates of devastating chronic conditions like diabetes, liver disease and high blood pressure.