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Los Angeles goes after patient-dumping for a third time

Glendale (Calif.) Adventist Medical Center has agreed to pay $700,000 to settle allegations the 462-bed hospital dropped off a homeless patient on Los Angeles' Skid Row—a downtown district infamous for its homeless population.

“Patient dumping will not be tolerated, and we will continue to work aggressively until it ceases to exist,” Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a release (PDF). “Every discharged patient, homeless or housed, should be able to recuperate with dignity.”

Glendale Adventist, the largest hospital within Roseville, Calif.-based Adventist Health, admitted no wrongdoing and said it cooperated with the city during the investigation.

“We strongly disagree with the allegations in the Los Angeles city attorney's complaint, but we chose to resolve this matter to avoid the very high cost of refuting these allegations,” said Glendale Adventist spokeswoman Alicia Gonzalez in a statement, adding that the medical center has had a discharge planning policy in place for homeless patients “for many years.”

Glendale Adventist's settlement is the third Los Angeles has filed so far this year. In January, 102-bed Beverly Hospital in Montebello, Calif., paid $200,000 in a patient-dumping case. Pacifica Hospital of the Valley, a 231-bed facility in Sun Valley, Calif., agreed to a $500,000 settlement. The city has been working with the Hospital Association of Southern California to help hospitals communicate with all patients and carry out proper discharges for them.

Separately, HHS' Office of the Inspector General has closed eight settlements involving patient-dumping allegations thus far in 2014. Most recently, St. Joseph's Medical Center in Yonkers, N.Y., paid $50,000 earlier this month to resolve allegations it did not treat an emergency department patient.

L.A.-area hospitals hit the spotlight several years ago because of patient-dumping practices. One of the most notorious instances involved healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente. In 2006, Kaiser's hospital in Bellflower, Calif., released Carol Reyes, a homeless patient, onto Skid Row. Video surfaced of the incident, which showed a disoriented Reyes stepping out of a taxi in her hospital gown and wandering down the street.

Dr. Benjamin Chu, president of Kaiser's Southern California region, said in 2007 it was an isolated incident, and the system created a discharge process “to make sure nothing like that can happen again.” Kaiser ultimately paid $5,000 in civil penalties and $500,000 toward improvements for the homeless.

Allegations of patient dumping also have surfaced in Nevada. The city of San Francisco sued Nevada last fall, claiming a psychiatric hospital bused homeless patients into California even though they didn't live there. However, a federal judge dismissed the suit in February.

Follow Bob Herman on Twitter: @MHbherman



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