LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A hospital has agreed to a $200,000 settlement with the city of Los Angeles for dropping off a patient on Skid Row without making arrangements with a shelter or family members, the city attorney said, vowing a crackdown against any reemergence of “patient dumping,” a practice that plagued Southern California nearly 10 years ago.
“My office will fight to protect everyone in our community, especially our most vulnerable,” Mike Feuer said in a statement announcing the settlement with the 224-bed Beverly Hospital in Montebello. “Patient dumping is inhumane and intolerable.”
Feuer's office alleged that the Beverly Community Hospital Association failed to perform a proper screening of a dependent adult with an emergency medical condition, failed to stabilize and transfer the patient, then improperly discharged them to Skid Row, dropping them off in a taxi without arrangements with family or a shelter.
“It truly is hard to imagine for a person to be in a more vulnerable position than being delivered to nowhere on Skid Row,” Feuer told the Los Angeles Times.
The hospital has been very cooperative with his office since litigation began in December, Feuer said, agreeing to $200,000 in civil penalties and adopting changes to its medical and psychiatric screening process.
A phone message left Saturday with hospital administrators by The Associated Press was not immediately returned.
The case was minor when compared to the near epidemic of “patient dumping,” that struck Southern California nearly a decade ago, with Los Angeles police reporting hundreds of patients on downtown streets, some still in hospital gowns. One Orange County hospital paid $1.6 million in penalties and charitable contributions after dropping of some 150 patients in vans, the Times reported.
Dumped patients had been a rare phenomenon in more recent years after police, prosecutors and other public officials cracked down on the practice.
It has been a bigger problem in Nevada and Northern California, where San Francisco's city attorney filed a lawsuit last year claiming Nevada has bused psychiatric patients to the city and declined to pay the costs connected with their care.
But homeless advocates said they have begun seeing an increase in Southern California as well.
“Sadly, we are seeing patients from hospitals being dumped on Skid Row again without any plans for their discharge,” Andy Bales, chief executive of the Union Rescue Mission, told the Times. “I am seeing more people _ clearly patients _ wandering the streets.”