LOS ANGELES – The reopening of Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital moved a step closer to reality, after the state Assembly ensured Medi-Cal funding for the facility.

“With passage of AB 2599, I am pleased that the legislature has codified the state’s commitment to the University of California and the county of Los Angeles to provide financial support for the hospital,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“Passage of AB 2599 continues the momentum toward restoring in-patient services to underserved residents in Watts-Willowbrook area by the new MLK Hospital,” he added.

The bill, sponsored by Speaker Emeritus Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, and Assembyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, codified the agreement between Los Angeles County, the University of California and the Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration for the reopening of the new MLK Hospital.

Under that agreement, the new facility would be a private, nonprofit hospital with 120 licensed beds when fully operational.

It would be owned and operated by a new company – not by county or by the University of California. It would, however, contract with the UC for physician services. The UC would also establish standards for quality assurance.

Proponents of the agreement hope the new facility will open in 2013.

MLK Hospital has been closed since August 2007 after federal regulators found it unable to meet minimum standards for patient care. An urgent care center and outpatient clinic are still operating at the site.