These doctors brought a shuttered L.A. hospital back to life to fight coronavirus

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The wave started in early March. The novel coronavirus was spreading across Los Angeles County, and local hospitals were unprepared.

Public health officials feared the worst. The news from Italy and New York — the mass graves and morgue trucks — was clear. They needed more beds.

So they planned.

The hospital ship Mercy sailed to San Pedro to treat the uninfected sick or injured. The Los Angeles Convention Center was prepped as a field hospital, and the St. Vincent Medical Center reopened.

The facility had closed in January, a victim of Verity Health System’s long bankruptcy. Lying just west of downtown Los Angeles, the sprawling campus was deserted, doors locked, 366 beds empty, with the virus creeping through the city.

On March 19, Dr. Jamie Taylor got a phone call.

The state was negotiating with Verity to lease the property, and her longtime colleague Dr. Anand Annamalai was putting together “a SEAL team dedicated to COVID.”

St. Vincent was to be known as the Los Angeles Surge Hospital, or LASH. Would she be interested in opening an intensive care unit for COVID-19 patients?

Taylor, 43 and a veteran of ICUs in California, New Jersey and New York, had experience treating severely ill COVID-19 patients at a hospital in Culver City. But that wasn’t the only reason she was being asked.