Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer has filed a lawsuit accusing Glendale Adventist Medical Center of dumping mentally ill and disabled homeless patients on L.A.'s skid row over the last four years.
The six-page complaint, filed Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, said the hospital improperly transported elderly and dependent patients to the downtown Los Angeles neighborhood, a 50-block area "known for extreme poverty, homelessness, rampant sale and use of illegal drugs and violent crime."
"Homeless people suffering from mental illness who wander these dangerous streets are particularly vulnerable to victimization and exploitation by criminal predators," the suit said.
Hospital officials "strongly disagree" with the allegations, but are working with the city attorney to resolve the matter, Glendale Adventist spokeswoman Alicia Gonzalez said in an email Friday. City attorney spokesman Rob Wilcox said settlement negotiations were underway and declined further comment.
In 2005 and 2006, images of taxis and vans dropping mentally ill patients in hospital gowns, including one holding a colostomy bag, on skid row drew national outrage, and resulted in civil actions and fines against Kaiser Permanente and other large hospitals and chains.
In January, Feuer announced a renewed crackdown on the practice. Earlier this year, he reached six-figure settlements with Pacifica Hospital of the Valley in Sun Valley and Montebello-based Beverly Community Hospital over allegations of improper skid row discharges.
But the Glendale Adventist case is by far the most significant in his campaign. The 515-bed, acute-care hospital is a pillar of the Glendale community, and the flagship of Adventist Health, a system of 19 hospitals, clinics and home care centers in California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii.
Established in 1905, the hospital has 720 affiliated doctors, employs 2,460 people and has 680 volunteers. The L.A. County Department of Mental Health designated the facility to admit and treat mentally ill patients brought in on involuntary detention holds, city prosecutors said in the suit.
The vaguely worded complaint does not detail specific incidents but alleges the hospital had homeless patients improperly transported to locations without their consent on June 6, and for four years before the complaint was filed.
The Rev. Andy Bales, head of the Union Rescue Mission, said the allegations against Glendale Adventist came as "a real surprise."
"I have always known Glendale Adventist to not ever be dumping patients," said Bales, whose skid row shelter has operated "dump cams" to document homeless people arriving in hospital gowns and bracelets. "I do believe they will take action and set up a proper protocol."
The Glendale News-Press reported in January that a psychiatric patient was sent by taxi from a Glendale hospital to the city's winter homeless shelter. Natalie Profant-Komuro, executive director of Ascencia, the 90-day shelter operator, said the case was "notable to me because the patient was so unfit.”
She declined to name the hospital.
Follow @geholland for news about skid row and homelessness.