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L.A.'s emergency medicine system needs life support

Plus, building bridges between faith and family and Local News Blues

Happy belated Pi Day 🥧 to all who celebrate.

Please give a warm welcome to our new interns from California State University, Dominguez Hills! I’m Robbi Gallegos, a senior journalism major upping our social media game. And, Kimberly Resendiz, also a senior journalism major, is a visual storyteller. They are looking forward to pursuing this field as a career, so please don’t scare them away 😉.

Fingers crossed you voted in the recent primary presidential election🤞🏾. I made a cute post on Instagram reminding you… I hope it wasn't for nothing 🙃.

Today we’re talking about crowded hospitals and lengthy ER wait times, which most of us have probably encountered at some point. These delays could affect the patient's care. You gotta love Los Angeles, waiting longer for healthcare treatment than it takes to spot a celebrity 📸🤩🤕.

We know you just can't get enough of us, so we’re also highlighting our recent reporting on a bridge program which aims to reunites LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness with their parents. Just before the election, we published a story on CourtWatch LA, a grassroots initiative that organizes volunteers to report on judges' courtroom conduct to spotlight misbehavior and unfair treatment.

Enjoy reading and we’ll catch up with you in a couple weeks!

Best, Robbi


(Illustration by Hal Marie Saga)

ER wait times in Los Angeles County are unbelievably long. EMT Adrian Galvan transported a patient who complained of dyspnea (shortness of breath) and COVID-19 symptoms and had to wait more than nine hours for a hospital bed.  

Overcrowded hospitals can cause delays that force EMTs to sit with their patients in ambulances. Delays in care can result in serious injury, or even death, for patients.

Many ERs routinely operate over capacity, meaning there are more incoming people than licensed beds to accommodate them. EMTs are often left waiting with their patient for a bed to open up, what they call “holding the wall.”

South Los Angeles residents, predominantly Black and Latine, are disproportionately impacted by long Ambulance Patient Offload Times (APOT). This is the time between a patient’s arrival outside emergency department doors, where they’ll be unloaded, and the time that patient is transferred to the emergency department.

The APOT standard in L.A. County, and set by the state, for a patient to be transferred from an EMS gurney to hospital care is around 30 minutes. But, this isn’t the reality.

EMTs who work out of South Los Angeles stations we interviewed said their patients are often diverted to Lakewood Regional, southeast of Compton, and St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood. These hospitals serve significantly more patients than others in the area. Their offload times are some of the worst in the county. On average, offloading patients at Lakewood takes 83 minutes and nearly 90 minutes at St. Francis. 

A high volume of patients with increased wait times and care delays are a sign that a hospital may not be able to sustain their services, and may be at risk of closing.

One in five hospitals across the state are at risk of closure as costs to maintain care rise. They face a budget crisis that is increasingly “impossible to balance,” according to a recent report from the California Hospital Association. 

“A closure of an emergency department in an area doesn’t mean that everyone in the area stops having heart attacks or strokes, or cutting their fingers off. It means that they will be transported to the next emergency department, which may be more crowded because now, it sees patients from two areas instead of one.”

— Renee Hsia, vice chair for health services research at the UCSF emergency services department. 

Staffing and resource shortages, hospital overcrowding, and time “holding the wall” for emergency department beds are seen more often in predominantly Black and Latine communities.


Long time, no see. We’ve been working hard to bring you the best local news. Here’s what we’ve been up to, in a note from our executive director Dana Amihere.

Local News Blues

Local News Blues gave me the opportunity to pull back the curtain on the struggles of being a local news organization. I wrote a post on how I was feeling on “the day we all dread as local news publishers."

Full disclosure: I wrote this from a place of anger, pain and frustration. It’s brutally honest. When I posted it on social media, I wasn’t prepared for the deluge of reactions, mostly positive (thankfully 🙏🏾). Since that day and that post, things are looking up. I hope you will read my account of what running a nonprofit newsroom can really be like some days, and know that you’re supporting a worthwhile endeavor.

A reporter’s next chapter

Ethan Ward’s story on a homelessness organization’s pilot program to bridge the gap between faith and family for LGBTQ+ youth is a special piece. Ethan found himself in a similar situation as the program’s transition-age youth just after high school graduation. He left home when his parents and their faith wouldn’t accept him for being gay.

“I share some personal stuff about my experiences growing up to ground the story. I have to admit it was a little scary. I internally went back and forth asking myself if this was the right choice,” he wrote on LinkedIn. “Many of you know I lived in my car for a year in 2017/2018. But that wasn’t the first time I experienced homelessness. I had a revelation (excuse my pun) while writing this story. I decided it was worth sharing.”

Ethan has covered housing and homelessness for years. He chose AfroLA as the home for his final story, one that is deeply personal.

“This is likely the last news story I’ll write about homelessness as a journalist. Much of what I’ve reported isn’t good news. I’m grateful to end this chapter of my life on a hopeful note.”


(Illustration by Hal Saga, photos via Ethan Ward and iStock)

Reporter Ethan Ward shares his personal account of growing up in the church environment where being gay was absolutely condemned. After he graduated high school, Ward left home and suddenly found himself homeless for the first time, but not the last.

Black LGBTQ+ youth have the highest rates of homelessness, according to researchers at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, as they face challenges from both their families and congregations.

The Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System (HOPICS) pilot bridge program aims to reunite homeless queer youth with their families as they work with local faith leaders in South Los Angeles. The bridge program provides reconciliation and healing for the youth, their families, and church communities. 


(Illustration by Hal Marie Saga)

CourtWatch LA, operated by decarceration nonprofit La Defensa, organizes volunteers to observe Los Angeles County Superior Court proceedings, to hold judges. Volunteers, including law students and formerly incarcerated individuals, take notes on quorum activities to highlight potential misconduct and biases. Staff members at La Defensa analyze reports to find trends in judges' conduct. Volunteers’ observations are foundational to the La Defensa’s Rate My Judge platform.


A heavily rusted and bent Neighborhood Watch sign can be found under a tree at the end of the Athens neighborhood in South Los Angeles. (Richard H. Grant/AfroLA)

When Dana, our founder, and her husband Luke moved to Los Angeles in 2018, they had specific home-buying criteria, prioritizing safety through security cameras. Despite living in a relatively safe neighborhood, their community has faced quite a few challenges over the years, including car theft and a deadly shooting. Law enforcement's lack of urgency and unreliable response left the neighbors with no choice but to band together during times of crisis. The neighbors trusted and leaned on the crutch of their security cameras more than the local police officers whose station is less than a mile away. Dana’s personal essay is the final installment of AfroLA’s collaboration with The Markup on the Neighborhood Watch series.


(Farajii Muhammad/AfroLA)

Black L.A.-based healers, griots and local residents gathered at the Los Angeles County Arboretum to experience spiritual healing. The inaugural Black Sound Healer Summit allowed attendees to get into a deep meditative state by using sound.

Black Americans carry the weight of societal pressures and historical challenges rooted in racism. Spiritual healing offers them holistic therapy for releasing their mind, body, and soul. Zentola, the summit host, emphasized the significance of healing practices to break cycles of violence and burdens. His mantra is: “I tell people all the time: Life is a party. Have fun, but don’t forget to leave your gifts behind.”


Thank you to everyone who contributed to our 2023 NewsMatch campaign! Matching funds from the  Institute for Nonprofit News are a big step toward funding operations and major projects this year. We’ll provide details on our final match amount when we get our disbursement later this month.

More than 30 donors made contributions, and five new people joined as sustaining members with recurring donations, from $5 to $50 a month. We’re grateful for everyone who was able to make a contribution, no matter what the amount. It means even more when you give what you can when you don’t have a lot to spare.

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