The 38-year-old schizophrenic homeless woman — clad only in paper pajamas — showed up in front of the Union Rescue Mission one day in September, allegedly dropped off by a hospital van.
She wandered without identification, money or medication through Los Angeles' skid row before someone at another shelter contacted the owner of the van, Gardens Regional Hospital & Medical Center in Hawaiian Gardens, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by L.A. City Atty. Mike Feuer.
The suit accuses Gardens Regional of repeatedly dumping patients, this woman among them, without appropriate treatment or discharge plans. In the last two years, Feuer has filed similar lawsuits against several other hospitals.
In the most significant case, Adventist Health, which runs 19 hospitals and clinic centers in four states, including Glendale Adventist Medical Center, paid $700,000 last year to settle dumping allegations without admitting wrongdoing.
Some hospitals maintain they are hamstrung by laws that stop them from confining all but the most severely psychotic homeless people. State law requires discharge planning, but hospitals say there is nowhere for homeless patients to go — especially those with mental conditions.
Feuer said many area hospitals have signed on to appropriate protocols.
"In each of the cases we've resolved with a medical care facility we've not had a single problem," Feuer said in a phone interview. "It is possible for a healthcare facility to adopt humane and decent treatment."
Feuer said his office is investigating other facilities for patient dumping.
The Hawaiian Gardens hospital's president and lawyer did not return calls seeking comment.
Feuer said the homeless woman, identified in the suit as Jane Roe to protect her privacy, had medical insurance and a primary care provider. Gardens also received federal funding for treating homeless people, the suit said.
"This is not charity work," Feuer said. "They are being compensated for this service."
She had been admitted to Gardens' emergency room six times before the alleged dumping incident for depression, hearing voices, amphetamine and alcohol abuse, and uncontrolled diabetes, the suit says.
Her sister worked at Gardens, the suit said. Before one of Roe's hospital visits, the sister had reported her missing to Monterey Park police, but Gardens failed to check its missing persons' alert system or notify the family, the suit said.
Her status was listed as "homeless," but she often was discharged to "home" and allowed to walk out the door, the suit says. At one point, she was released with only a piece of paper printed with a definition of schizophrenia and an 800 number.
Roe was placed in Silver Lake Medical Center, and later transferred to a board-and-care facility, where she was stabilized, the suit says.