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More problems for L.A.'s Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center

After the Los Angles Times reported that L.A.'s inner city Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center hospital had paid more than $1.3 million from March 2004 to March 2005 to a radiologist who claimed he worked 24-hour days for weeks at a time, county supervisors ordered an audit in April.

The audit found that six doctors working in the county-owned hospital's emergency department collected a total of nearly $75,000 for questionable billings in the first five months of the year. Of the 2,200 hours billed in April and May by the six doctors, who worked as independent contractors, 39 percent could not be explained.

The L.A. hospital has been blamed for patient deaths because of poor nursing care, and has recently been repeatedly cited by regulators and lost its accreditation in several medical specialties. Though the county is paying a turnaround firm $15 million to run the hospital for a year, many lapses in medical care and management have surfaced under its watch.

The audit also found that 12 doctors signed deals to become higher paid contractors while they were still on the country payroll or within a year after leaving, which is a violation of county rules. The director of the health department said he would recommend ways to strengthen contracting rules, and seek to recoup any money it believed it was owed by doctors.

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