Good Samaritan Hospital will pay $450,000 to settle allegations that it dumped a homeless patient on the streets, and it has also agreed to abide by strict discharge protocols, Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer announced Thursday.
The settlement involves a December 2014 case in which, Feuer's office says, a man was treated for a foot injury and then released with nothing but a bus token, which he used to get to Echo Park.
Good Samaritan, a 408-bed facility in the Westlake area west of downtown, admitted to no wrongdoing in the settlement.
The agreement comes as part of a crackdown by the city attorney's office on hospitals suspected of improperly discharging patients. So far, the city has collected $2 million in fees, fines and other payments from four hospitals.
“Patient dumping is inhumane and must be stopped,” Feuer said. “The public perception is that this only happens on skid row, but as this case illustrates it can happen in other neighborhoods too.”
Feuer said medical facilities aren’t always cooperative when confronted with dumping allegations, but in this case, Good Samaritan “agreed to take the necessary steps to ensure some of our most vulnerable residents are protected.”
The settlement establishes new discharge protocols for homeless patients and requires the payment of $450,000 for homeless recuperative care, civil penalties and costs, Feuer said.
“The allegations here mirror so many dumping cases — a homeless individual treated for a medical condition and released to the street without a plan for recuperative care, and into a dangerous environment for their medical condition,” Feuer said in an interview.
The homeless man was admitted to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, after city attorney's office staff learned of his plight. “His condition had gotten a lot worse,” Feuer said.
Good Samaritan has denied the allegations. Six years ago, while other hospitals were coming under fire for dumping, the hospital won praise for taking the initiative and working closely with a homeless services provider.
In a statement released Thursday, Good Samaritan said that it chose to settle “rather than expend its limited resources on protracted litigation.”
“Our goal is to deliver the best possible care to anyone who comes through our door,” the statement read.
The hospital noted, however, that as Los Angeles has experienced a sharp rise in homelessness, Good Samaritan and other medical centers have struggled to place homeless patients when they are discharged “because of the inadequate resources to meet their housing and medical needs.”
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 a neighborhood prosecutor for his office, Gabby Taylor, alerted her colleagues that the man had been the victim of patient dumping.
The city attorney is continuing litigation against another hospital, Gardens Regional Hospital & Medical Center in Hawaiian Gardens, that is accused of dumping a patient on skid row in 2014. That case could go to trial in October.
Los Angeles has been among the most aggressive cities in the nation when it comes to addressing issues of patient dumping.
In 2008, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center agreed to a $1-million settlement and oversight by a former top federal prosecutor after it was accused of dumping a paraplegic patient who was found crawling around skid row wearing a hospital gown and colostomy bag.
As part of the settlement announced Thursday, Good Samaritan will pay $200,000 in civil penalties and $100,000 in associated costs, Feuer said. The hospital will also donate $100,000 to Integrated Recovery Network, a Los Angles nonprofit that assists homeless people with housing, access to healthcare and jobs, and it will pay $50,000 into an account for recuperative care facilities.
Feuer said he has tried to work with the local hospital association to develop clear protocols that prevent patient dumping, but not all institutions have been responsive.
“One of the best things about this settlement is that the hospital is agreeing to advocate for such protocols,” Feuer said.