Montebello hospital accused of dumping homeless patient will pay fine

In this 2006 file photo provided by Los Angeles police, ambulance workers drop off a patient on skid row, even though police reports indicated he wanted to be taken to his residence at a Pasadena convalescent home.
(Los Angeles Police Department)
<i>This post has been updated. See the note below for details.</i>

A Montebello hospital accused of dumping a homeless patient on skid row will pay a $250,000 fine and face new protocols rather than face civil and criminal charges, according to the Los Angeles city attorney’s office.

Officials at the 224-bed Beverly Hospital in Montebello last year allegedly had the patient driven to skid row -- long a magnet for the region’s most vulnerable citizens -- without any prearrangement with a shelter to take the patient in.

The settlement, announced Friday, marks the first time in several years that a hospital has been caught dumping a patient without adequate medical care illegally on skid row.

[Updated 9:40 a.m. PDT Jan. 3: The hospital agreed to pay $200,000 in civil penalties and $50,000 in legal fees.]


Seven years ago, city prosecutors began aggressively pursuing criminal and civil cases against medical facilities that drop off homeless patients at shelters. Los Angeles police reported seeing hundreds of patients, sometimes still in hospital gowns, appearing on downtown streets.

The city forced several large hospital and chains, including Kaiser Permanente, to pay massive civil penalties and agree to tough new regulations.

“Patient dumping is inhumane and intolerable,” Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer said in a statement. “My office will fight to protect everyone in our community, especially the most vulnerable.”

Feuer recently reignited the crackdown after taking office.

In 2005 and 2006, patient dumping on L.A.'s skid row grabbed national headlines with images of mentally ill patients in gowns and another holding a colostomy bag being dropped off in ambulances, taxis and vans.

After a few years hiatus, shelter workers and police officers report seeing the signs of patient dumping again in the last year -- including a surge of people wearing medical wristbands from hospitals.

“Sadly, we are seeing patients from hospitals being dumped on skid row again without any plans for their discharge,” said Andy Bales, chief executive of the Union Rescue Mission.

The settlement signed last month by Feuer’s office and Beverly Hospital resolves a civil enforcement action filed by the city attorney, which alleged the Montebello medical center failed to perform a medical screening on a homeless patient in an emergency medical condition.

Beverly Hospital, the city attorney alleged, failed to stabilize the homeless patient before transferring and improperly discharging them.

The protocols agreed to by Beverly Hospital were created several years ago by city prosecutors after they carefully examined how some of the most vulnerable came to end up on the row — a section of L.A. made up of several blocks with a dozen shelters, plus service agencies and housing groups.

The hospital agrees not to violate the state and federal laws that require homeless patients to be discharged to a “patient safety zone” if they don’t have the care of a family member. The hospital also must obtain written consent from the patient to transport them to a place other than their home

For nearly a decade, the Union Rescue Mission has operated “dump cams” outside its shelter and the LAPD has publicly vowed to arrest anyone caught leaving patients outside a shelter without an arrangement for the handoff.

In the last few months, Bales said shelter officials discovered a patient from a San Gabriel Valley medical facility being dropped off by a taxi. That incident is under investigation by authorities.

Officials have also seen an influx of former patients from Nevada, where state hospitals openly gave discharged patients bus tickets to destinations in California, including Los Angeles.

The Beverly Hospital case doesn’t have the scope of some of the worst offenders of the past. College Hospital in Orange County in 2009 agreed to pay $1.6 million in penalties and charitable contributions to a host of psychiatric and social services agencies. The hospital dumped more than 150 patients using vans and dropped patients on a weekly basis.


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