Want to stop hospitals from dumping poor patients on skid row? Try this.

"In 2005 and 2006, patient dumping on L.A.'s skid row grabbed national headlines with images of mentally ill patients in hospital gowns, one holding a colostomy bag, being dropped off in ambulances, taxis and vans," The Times' Richard Winton writes. Major hospitals, including Kaiser Permanente, were forced to pay huge penalties and agree to tough new regulations for dumping indigent patients downtown.

"Hospitals don't like dealing with homeless patients, who are often uninsured and sometimes unpleasant to treat. So they literally dump them on the streets of skid row, even if the patients come from other places in Los Angeles and are in no condition to fend for themselves," "60 Minutes" reported in 2007.

Most people thought the problem had abated since hospitals got slapped with major fines.

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Alas, we were wrong.

"In a settlement announced Friday, the 224-bed Beverly Hospital in Montebello agreed to pay $250,000 in civil penalties and legal fees after it was accused of taking a patient by taxi to skid row and leaving her there without making any arrangements with a shelter," Winton reports.

Charming.

So Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer says he's going after these miscreants.

Which brings me into the picture. I want to help!

For a hospital like Beverly, a quarter of a million bucks is a drop in the bucket. It's cheaper for it to pay the occasional penalty than to give proper care to every patient who walks or rolls through the ER doors. From now on, therefore, I humbly suggest that when cops and homeless shelters come across a case of patient dumping, they take the person to the hospital's CEO. In Beverly Hospital's case, that would be Gary Kiff.

I'm guessing that Kiff, with a reported annual salary of more than $400,000, which safely ensconces him in the top 1%, has a sweet crib with lots of spare room for sofa surfers. Maybe he can take in some of the nurses he is underpaying and refusing to let unionize as well.

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Ted Rall on Twitter @TedRall

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