California Hospitals Settle Patient-Dumping Allegations for $1.6 Million
California-based College Hospitals has agreed to pay $1.6 million to settle charges that two of its campuses improperly discharged and transported about 150 psychiatric patients to homeless shelters in downtown Los Angeles, City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo's office announced on Wednesday, the AP/Kansas City Star reports (Tayefe Mohajer, AP/Kansas City Star, 4/8). City officials alleged the infractions, by College Hospitals' facilities in Costa Mesa and Cerritos, occurred between 2007 and 2008.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the process was discovered by state officials after Steven Davis -- who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder -- was treated at the Costa Mesa campus and then taken in a hospital van more than 40 miles to downtown Los Angeles and dropped off at a homeless shelter. Officials at the shelter complained to the hospital about its action. The van returned and dropped Davis off at a second shelter, but Davis "wandered away without ever entering," the Times reports. City prosecutors then uncovered what they described as the largest case of "homeless dumping" they have encountered, according to the Times (DiMassa/Winton, Los Angeles Times, 4/9).
Under the settlement, College Hospitals will give $1.2 million to charities that care for the mentally ill and homeless and pay $400,000 in civil penalties (AP/Kansas City Star, 4/8). College Hospitals also will have one year to establish written protocols for releasing patients, including locating resources to care for them and obtaining voluntary consent before patients are transported. The two facilities will be barred from taking patients to any homeless shelter within a "patient safety zone" set up in downtown L.A. Delgadillo said, "Dumping patients who are sick or mentally ill on the streets of Skid Row is an unconscionable act," adding, "It's illegal, it's immoral and it has to stop" (Perkes, Orange County Register, 4/8).
College Hospitals attorney Glenn Solomon said that the hospital denies any wrongdoing and that its actions never amounted to "homeless dumping." He added that the hospital agreed to the settlement to establish a workable policy for dealing with homeless patients in the future. "It's the policy of the hospital ... to discharge each and every patient appropriately," Solomon said (Los Angeles Times, 4/9). He added, "The hospital believes it's a good thing to be at the forefront of developing these protocols" (Orange County Register, 4/8).