MLK Community Hospital – Emergency Department Renovations

Democratizing Healthcare in South Central L.A. Through Design.

The new inpatient tower at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital (MLKCH) was built in 2015 to provide care to the South Central area of Los Angeles between Compton and Watts – a notoriously underserved, low-income community. MLKCH was built on the site of the original 233-bed King-Harbor Hospital, which closed in 2007 due to poor management – leaving no medical services for the South Central community. In an effort to improve the ratio of healthcare staff-to-patients, the new inpatient tower (IPT at MLKCH opened in 2015 with 131 licensed beds, an emergency department and four operating rooms.

The challenge MLKCH faced was meeting the increasing volume of patients. Only a few years after the opening, the nearly brand-new MLKCH facility was stressed trying to meet the demands of a growing population, serving a patient census nearly three times what it was designed to handle.

MLKCH contracted GDG Healthcare Architects to provide solutions for meeting the hospital’s high patient demand. At that time, space was limited, with many patients temporarily placed in tents outside or in corridors due to lack of other placement options.

Since the hospital was limited by physical space – without the option to expand its walls and facility footprint – GDG’s solutions for MLKCH were driven by strategy and creativity. The GDG team shared feasibility studies that addressed ways to move non-essential services out of the way to prioritize space for high-priority services within the hospital. The MLKCH Inpatient Tower is a fixed 6-story cube with all spaces already occupied, so the challenge became identifying which spaces could be moved to add more patient beds and expand critical care services – much like a sliding puzzle or a Rubik’s cube.

L.A. County is the owner of MLKCH’s facilities, so all changes needed county approval before renovation work begins. In 2022, L.A. County agreed to lease nearly 9,000 sq. ft. of an adjacent building so the hospital could move non-critical services out of MLKCH to make room for more patient beds and priority services. Through efficiency studies and strategic design, GDG’s plan to consolidate departments within MLKCH and relocate key services was approved by hospital staff. After its opening in 2024, the newly expanded MLKCH will add 21 beds and increase patient rooms and ancillary required spaces to serve nearly 100,000 patients per year in a community that has historically been underserved with medical care.


By The Numbers

Location:   Los Angeles
Type of Project GAC
Project duration Anticipated completion in 2024
Total Square Footage 4,500 sq. ft.
Project Cost $4,225,000

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