CNS – Hospitals that leave homeless patients on the streets of Los Angeles without their consent would face a $25,000 fine under an ordinance proposed Oct. 31 by city leaders.
Councilwoman Jan Perry and City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo want to make it a misdemeanor offense in Los Angeles for hospitals to transport patients to a location other than the patient’s home without written consent.
Under their proposal, violators could be hit with a $25,000 fine and three years probation.
“We hope that this proposed ordinance will help us move to a day when homeless patient dumping no longer exists,” Perry said. “It’s unconscionable to treat another person in such a callous manner.”
But an executive with the Hospital Association of Southern California, which represents 170 Southland hospitals, said the proposal is “short-sighted” and does not address why medical professionals make the decision to leave patients on Skid Row.
“It’s just too bad that the city believes in using this approach to solving a social problem instead of trying to help hospitals find ways to take care of these patients,” said HASC Executive Vice President Jim Lott. “They simply want to make this social problem a hospital problem.”
The ordinance is similar to a state bill vetoed this year by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. SB 275, authored by Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, would have barred hospitals and their staff from transporting a patient to a location other than that person’s residence.
The governor said he opposed the legislation because current state and federal laws adequately address the issue.
The city attorney disagrees.
“We all agree that the dumping of homeless patients is an inhumane, horrific practice that must be stopped,” Delgadillo said. “Existing law isn’t sufficient to stop the dumping once and for all. Existing law simply does not cast a wide enough net to allow us to truly create a deterrent through prosecution.”
Physicians have the option of petitioning a conservator to care for homeless patients who have been in the hospital for at least three days, Delgadillo said.
That practice is a waste of time and money, Lott said.
“Why do we need to keep them for three days in a hospital bed if they don’t need care? That’s the issue,” Lott said.
City attorneys are using false imprisonment and elder abuse laws to prosecute hospitals that dump patients. A year ago, Delgadillo filed charges against Kaiser Permanente for allegedly dumping a woman who was wearing a hospital gown and slippers when she was left on the street.
Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center is also being investigated for two alleged dumping cases, including the release of a paraplegic patient—who was wearing a colostomy bag and found in a gutter —and the discharge of a man who was still strapped to a gurney.
The proposed ordinance is expected to be discussed by the City Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness during the first week of December.