Attention L.A. Women
If you get your HIV care in Los Angeles County ... and if you ever have to be hospitalized at County General ... you have a right to be assigned to the ward on 6700
The AIDS ward at 6700 is the best place for people with HIV disease who have to be hospitalized. It's the best place in General Hospital because:
We hope that you never, ever, have to be hospitalized. But, if you do, you can insist on being given a bed on the ward at 6700.
A Little History
In the late 1980's several activist groups, held several demonstrations which culminated in an all night vigil in protest of the Los Angeles County's lack of response to the AIDS epidemic. The focus of the demonstrations were to obtain a special ward in the County Hospital for people with AIDS.
The series of demonstrations, negotiations, and community pressure resulted in the County setting up a specific ward for people with AIDS. The nurses on that ward are HIV specialists. The rooms are cleaner than the rest of the hospital and there are a maximum of 3 people per room. Each room has it's own bathroom. This ward came to be known as sixty seven hundred.
So, then the ward of course was full most of the time because people were dying at a more rapid rate than they are today. Most of the patients were gay men who had AIDS.
The nursing staff on the ward is great! They are experts in treating people with HIV/AIDS and they are compassionate, caring and hard working people.
Within the last couple of years fortunately, the AIDS ward has not been filled with people who have HIV. Part of the reason for this is the new medications that are helping so many people to stay healthy and avoid being hospitalized.
But, there are still people with HIV who are getting sick and many who still need occasional hospitalization.
Last year when me and Justina found out that our friend, Marilyn Howell had been admitted to County Hospital, we went to visit. We brought her an extra blanket and a television set. When we got there, Marilyn was in 6321. She was in a room with several other people and it was very loud. It was a huge open ward with about 10 beds. Every bed was occupied. There was only one bathroom. It was filthy. Everyone had brought a TV and every TV was on a different channel. People in pain were yelling for the nurses. Other patients couldn't stop coughing, and we were afraid that Marilyn would catch TB or something else that she didn't need. After all, she already had AIDS.
We knew that Marilyn needed rest and we were concerned that she was not admitted to 6700. Marilyn told us that "they" had told her there were "NO BEDS" in 6700.
After visiting our friend, me and Justina went over to the AIDS ward and found out that there were indeed 3 empty beds on the ward. Our friend only needed one bed, so we decided to find out why she was not admitted to the AIDS ward, since she is a person with AIDS.
We first talked to the nurses on duty in 6700. They were very nice and told us that there would be no problem in transferring Marilyn to the ward. We then went back to 6300 and told the nurses on duty there. They were also very nice and said they would call "bed control". We then spoke to the treating physician, and she said she would call "bed control" herself. She told me that she called bed control and they said "okey dokey". I asked her what does that mean? She said she didn't know but that's what they said.
We waited another hour and our friend was still not being moved to the ward. We then decided we should talk to bed control directly, but instead we were referred to the Nurses Headquarters on the 10th floor. We spoke with a nurse who was very nice and helpful. During the course of our conversation with him, he told us that the beds in that ward were filled. We told him that we had gone over to the ward and there were 3 empty beds. He then told us that the rooms had men in them. He stated that he could not have a woman in the same room as a man. Our friend Marilyn was sick and did not care if she was in a room with a gay man.
If a Man
We told him that there was an empty bed by itself in one room and another room with two empty beds. He said, "Yes but, if a man is admitted I will have to let him have a bed on 6700..." ... and that Marilyn could not be in the same room.
It was insulting to us that the county would not allow a woman to occupy a bed in a room with two empty beds, just in case a man was admitted. Of course, the county denies that anyone ever said that.
Just in Case
It was obvious to us that bed control was saving a whole empty room with three beds in it "just in case" a man with AIDS needed to be admitted. In the mean time the women were being assigned to beds in the "general" wards (aka "cattle call").
We did not say anything about this, at that time, because we just wanted to get our friend into a bed where she could get some rest and get the specialized care that she needed and deserved. Finally, they told us that Marilyn could be moved.
We went back to 6300 and talked to the nurses and checked on our friend. We went over to 6700 and they told us that she would be in room 6736. We brought her belongings and TV to the new room. Finally, we went back to 6300 and at about 11:30pm they finally moved our friend to the AIDS ward.
Marilyn was released from the hospital about 3 weeks later. Marilyn got out of the hospital alive but she was too sick to recover. She spent a month at home in her apartment and then went to Hospice. Marilyn died, June 27, 1998. We truly miss our dear friend.
The General Ward
On the general wards there is one bathroom per six or seven (sometimes more) people, the bathrooms are very small and very dirty. You may be sharing a room with someone who has a contagious disease. If your immune system is compromised with HIV you are in danger of catching something that might make you sicker or even kill you.
So, guess what happened, one year later? Justina had to be hospitalized. She waited almost 24 hours in the emergency room. She was assigned to the "sister ward" on the 8th floor. It took about 3 days for Justina to finally get a bed on the ward at 6700.
Through this experience, we learned that we don't have an AIDS ward anymore. Administrators told us that the census of HIV/AIDS patients was down, so they made 6700 a general ward.
We fought for that ward. The ward on 6700 was created for AIDS patients with AIDS dollars and now it's gone! Well, now that the women need it, it's a "general" ward.
Many of the things that so many of us fought for and got in the 80's and 90's are being taken away from us as we approach the new millennium. So many of the people who fought for all those things and for all of us, are gone. Things like free medical care, free medications, free food, the county AIDS ward, and specialized HIV care; can all be taken away.
Women Alive has formed a committee to get the LA County AIDS ward back!
The committee is called: A.C.C.E.S.S. (The AIDS Care Coalition for Equity in Social Services). The committee meets on Thursday evenings at different locations. If you are interested in joining the committee and fighting to get the AIDS ward back, please contact Justina Thompson at 323.965.1564 between 11am and 5pm Mondays through Fridays.
Women Alive wants to be clear to our readers that we are not targeting the care providers (Doctors, Nurses, Physicians Assistants, etc.) at 5p21 or any other county facility. Our issue is with County administration and the County General Hospital policy regarding access to the AIDS ward.
Back to the Women Alive Fall 1999 Contents Page.
This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.