L.A.'s Emergency Rooms, Rated

LA's Emergency Rooms Rated Illo - H 2014
Illustration by: R. Kikuo Johnson

THR's Top Doctors issue reveals they're not all created equal

This story first appeared in the Sept. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

When the son of restaurateur Peter Morton was 10, he fell out of a tree and ended up in intensive care at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center with a hematoma on his brain. "Pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Gary Mathern allowed my son to have a remarkable, full recovery," he tells THR. (Shortly after, Morton donated toward The Peter Morton Medical building.)

Clearly, not everyone who sees the inside of an emergency room is as bowled over. While all ERs are equipped to handle run-of-the-mill situations, hospitals set themselves apart with specialties, staff physicians and equipment for stroke, trauma and heart-attack centers, says emergency physician Dr. Lance Gentile, who has worked as a writer and technical adviser for ER and Third Watch. Patients can request a hospital, but where ambulances go is based on symptoms, geography and the hospital's receiving capabilities. Either way, do research before an emergency, says Dr. Gentile: "I would want to know what the local hospital offers before making that 911 call."

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

8700 Beverly Blvd., 310-423-3277

This nonprofit hospital and academic facility sees more than 84,000 patients yearly -- including, reportedly, Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, who was admitted after a heart attack last year, and Suge Knight, who was treated for gunshot wounds last month following a pre-party for the MTV Video Music Awards. "We treat a number of celebrities and VIPs and are cognizant of protecting people's privacy," says Dr. Joel Geiderman, co-chair of the Ruth and Harry Roman Emergency Department at Cedars. A Level 1 (the highest designation out of four levels) trauma center, comprehensive stroke center, pediatric critical care and EDAP facility (meaning, it's capable of handling 911 calls involving children), this ER offers the highest level of services across all specialties, except for its Level 2 pediatric trauma designation, indicating it doesn't conduct research.

Children's Hospital Los Angeles

4650 Sunset Blvd., 323-660-2450

Dedicated to treating infants, children, adolescents and young adults throughout Southern California, the ER sees 72,000 patients annually. Fourteen full-time and three part-time pediatric physicians make up the department. "One hundred percent of what we do is devoted to the care and treatment of children. That distinguishes us from every other institution," says division head Dr. Alan Nager. The hospital is also the only freestanding Level 1 pediatric trauma center in L.A. County, directed by Dr. Jeffrey Upperman. "Some people refer to us as a 'one-stop pediatric shop,' " says Dr. Nager. "If you are a child and have health-care needs, from a benign condition to a life-threatening illness or trauma, you come to us."

Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center

215 W. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks, 805-497-2727

Located in Thousand Oaks, this ER not only serves Ventura County but also Malibu, Westlake and Calabasas. "We get many ambulances from L.A. County on a monthly basis," explains ER director Lynn Tadlock, who says that the decision to come there is determined by the paramedics and patient preference. A primary stroke center and STEMI receiving center (which means it can handle heart attacks caused by blocked arteries), this ER also has earned a kid-friendly EDAP rating and a Level 2 trauma center designation.

Providence St. Joseph Medical Center Burbank

501 S. Buena Vista St., Burbank, 818-843-5111

Serving more than 64,000 patients in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys, this ER also is a STEMI receiving center and has EDAP certification. And while the hospital is a certified stroke center, Kevin Traber, director of emergency and cardiovascular services, adds transportation to its response capabilities: "We go to any hospital in the area that doesn't have cardiac or neurointerventional capabilities and pick up those patients," explains Traber. "It's a 24/7 emergency, nurse-staffed ambulance on site and ready to go."

Providence Saint John's Health Center

2121 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, 310-829-5511

Treating more than 30,000 patients yearly, the Weingart Foundation Emergency Department prides itself on its innovative Fast Track service, which treats patients with urgent-care-type symptoms in usually "under an hour," says medical director Dr. Russ Kino, who adds that not being a teaching facility is a virtue. "We don't have residents, interns or med students. You only get treated by board-certified specialists," he says. "It's far more private; you're not telling your history over and over again to multiple people." The ER does not have pediatric certification or stroke center designation and is a STEMI receiving center. The fact that the ER is not a trauma center also is a plus, says Kino: "[A trauma center] can get a lot of unsavory characters in the waiting room."

Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center

757 Westwood Plaza, 310-825-9111

This I.M. Pei and C.C. Pei-designed hospital on the UCLA campus is a Hollywood emergency go-to, thanks to its central location and state-of-the art facilities, not to mention a Level 1 trauma center for both adults and pediatrics as designated by Los Angeles County. Michael Jackson was reportedly rushed to the David I. Saperstein Emergency Department with his fatal cardiac arrest in 2009, as was former first lady Nancy Reagan, who was treated in 2008 after falling in her home and fracturing her pelvis. "We are the highest level of classifications in every area," explains Dr. Lynne McCullough, medical director of the ER, which treats 45,000 patients yearly and serves L.A. and Beverly Hills. Areas of note: the comprehensive stroke center, STEMI receiving center and an urgent care program for less serious conditions. The hospital also enjoys relationships with other UCLA Health System facilities, including UCLA Santa Monica. "The two hospitals are distinct campuses, but some physicians go back and forth," says McCullough.

UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica

1250 16th St., Santa Monica, 424-259-6000

More than 42,000 patients see the inside of the Nethercutt Emergency Center annually, which is part of the sister hospital to UCLA Ronald Reagan. This nontrauma ER was the first of its kind to receive a STEMI receiving center designation on the Westside, and it also boasts the kid-friendly EDAP certification. UCLA also counts an internal ambulance department among its strengths. "I've been on Wilshire with a [life-threatening] code 3 in an ambulance," Dr. Ghurabi says, attesting to the quickness of transport. "It doesn't take long."

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Hollywood's Vaccine Wars: L.A.’s "Entitled" Westsiders Behind City’s Epidemic

Hollywood's Biggest Anti-Vaccine Proponents

How to Live Forever: The (Mad?) Science Hollywood Is Using to "Cure" Death

'I'm Going to Live Forever': Hollywood Elders' Best Quotes About Aging

Is Working in Hollywood Bad for Your Health?

Meet the Real-Life McDreamy: The Doctor Behind 'Grey's Anatomy'

4 NYC-Based Physicians Loved by L.A.

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Chris Albrecht Recounts His Daughter's Harrowing Car Accident

Voice Doctor Who Treats KISS' Paul Stanley Shares His Advice to Rock-Star Clients