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UPDATED….Hospital Dumping Case Settled – ACLU in a Good Mood

May 14th, 2007 by Celeste Fremon

homeless-woman-dumped-2.jpg

Remember that creepy Skid Row/hospital dumping case caught on video last Spring?
(I know, I know. There’ve been a lot of really creepy Skid Row dumping cases in the past 12 months. So, to refresh your memory about this particular case, you’ll find the video below.)

Here’s the deal: there will be an announcement at a Tuesday morning press conference regarding both the ACLU’s lawsuit and LA City Attorney, Rocky Delgadillo’s criminal charges stemming from the case.
The lawsuit and the charges arose from an incident in March of 2006, in which a 63-year-old woman, Carol Ann Reyes, was found wandering on Skid Row, allegedly dumped there after she was was discharged from Kaiser Permanente’s Bellflower hospital. The hospital was accused of sending Ms. Reyes to Skid Row in a taxi cab, whereupon the driver essentially booted her out near the corner of 5th and San Pedro, in front of the Union Rescue Mission.

What won’t be announced until tomorrow, (but what we’re telling you tonight) is that ACLU and Kaiser have agreed to a mutual settlement, and that, based on what we hear from well-connected friends, the ACLU folks are extremely pleased.

As for Rocky’s office, they’ll be will be making their own announcement tomorrow. It will have to do with “guidelines” that have been worked out with Kaiser that prevent the hospital from misbehaving in the future—or words to that effect. Presumably this guideline agreement saves the hospital from a criminal prosecution, which might have a nasty effect on its accreditation, et al.


Despite all these swell announcements to come, the still-pressing question is
whether the settlements and guidelines constitute a hard enough legal and monetary smack that it will dissuade other hospitals from dumping in the future.

If the past is any guide, the answer is: Not really.


If you’ll remember, for months before the Carol Ann Reyes incident
, service providers and city officials, Jan Perry included, had been complaining that hospitals were dumping their indigent patients on Skid row, and the Central division of the LAPD had been actively investigating the complaints.

The tough part, said the cops and the prosecutors, was getting enough to charge a hospital then making charges stick, since homeless and/or mentally ill folks often don’t make for the best witnesses. But this time, the Union Mission’s surveillance video caught the dumping on tape. While the camera rolled, a taxi hung a U in the middle of San Pedro St., pulled up to the curb, dropped off an elderly woman in a hospital gown, then drove away. A disoriented Ms. Reyes was then seen shuffling along the sidewalk (and through the video frame) in her gown and hospital booties.

Amazingly, even that video and the threat of criminal prosecution didn’t stop other hospitals from continuing to dump homeless patients after discharge as this October 2006 NPR story shows:

Police who interviewed some of the patients being left at Skid Row say that none of them reported asking to go there. One man, says [LAPD Central Division] Capt. Smith, had asked to be released to his children’s home in Pasadena.

Our supervisors actually gave that guy a ride back to his house, and his family was outraged,” Smith says. “Not only did they not know that he’d been discharged but the fact that he’d been brought to Skid Row instead of home further outraged that family.”

And then, of course, there was February’s award-winningly horrifying case of the paraplegic man wearing a soiled hospital gown “and a broken colostomy bag” who was “found crawling in a gutter” in Skid Row (as the LA Times then described it).

Obviously, there are no guarantees, but here’s hoping that tomorrow’s announced deals will accomplish what a string of embarrassing news stories and repeated appeals to LA’s hospitals’ humanity could not.

I’m not betting the ranch on it.

*****************************************************************

UPDATE – POST PRESS CONFERENCE

Well, maybe there is reason to be optimistic. In addition to the terms of the civil suit, which are confidential, the joint settlement works out a series of protocols and practices that Kaiser has agreed to follow ever after. The idea is less to be punitive, than to set up well-thought out guidelines that Kaiser and, following their lead, other hospitals can live with on a practical basis, but that treat the vulnerable among us in a humane, dignified, and compassionate manner. Hey, improvement is possible.

Posted in ACLU, Civil Liberties, Homelessness, Skid Row | 19 Comments »

19 Responses

  1. Woody Says:

    This is one offense that I cannot even begin to understand or justify, as much as I would like to be on the opposite side of something that the ACLU wants. Until an acceptable system for hospital discharge is designed, I suggest that all mental patients be taken to the local ACLU office, where they will be in the company of other mental misfits.

    I suspect that the hospital didn’t specifically order the cabs to take people to skid row, even though there may have been a wink and a nod, but the patient didn’t know where to go so the cab took them to the most likely place where they could receive further attention. It would be nice to hear what the hospital says about this.

    There have been similar actions by families who engage in something called “granny dumping,” in which they take their parents with dementia and with no identification and dump them off at hospital emergency rooms, which then become responsible for the parents.

    This is just symbolic of a greater problem in our country of many people not accepting responsibility and expecting government or someone else to take care of their problems. I wonder what political philosophy would foster such an attitude?

  2. Pokey Says:

    Certainly there is no justification for such actions, but I do understand the problems of dealing with the elderly who have no local family and also have a loose screw.

    My 90 year old neighbor, Helen, who lives two doors down had worked at Knott’s Berry Farm for 40 years and owned her home free and clear, but had lost a few cards from her deck in the last few years of her life.

    Not long ago, while watching “The good Sheppard (with Matt Damon)” at the local AMC with my wife, I got a call on my cell from the hospital emergency room nurse, to come pick Helen up and Sheppard her home. We never did see the end of the movie, since I could tell that the nurse was very ready to get rid on this cranky senile old lady, with no other phone numbers in here purse except mine.

    As a society we have determined that we will not allow small children to room the street alone, maybe it is time that we do the same for the elderly whose minds have become children with no family. Until then I guess it will be up to a good neighbor.

  3. listener_on_the_sidelines Says:

    It takes a village…
    From the NYTimes, Magazine, Lives, Someone’s Mother : http://tinyurl.com/2comt3

    You are a good person Pokey.

  4. Woody Says:

    Not to take anything away from Pokey or anyone, the way that he reacted is the way that any decent person would react–unless it was the ninth inning of a good game. While there are some bad eggs, most people try to do the right thing. Society isn’t all bad.

  5. listener_on_the_sidelines Says:

    Yikes. Didn’t realize that link to the NYTimes article would be prefaced by an ad. Hopefully, this one can move around it. Lives, Someone’s Mother – http://tinyurl.com/2comt3

  6. Celeste Fremon Says:

    You are a good person, Pokey. And, I agree, Woody, most people are pretty decent. But corporations, pushed by bottom line pressures, seem to make policies that individuals wouldn’t. In which case I think there need to be appropriate consequences to help dissuade them in the future.

    In several of these cases, the cops interviewed the transporting entity (the taxi driver, the drivers of medical vans) and found that they were, in fact, told by the hospitals to take the patient to Skid Row and dump ‘em.

    Also, they found that in most cases the people were either too disoriented to ask to go anywhere, or in some, actually asked to go elsewhere.

    Listener…..the NY Times piece is a heartbreaker. Thanks for posting it.

  7. Woody Says:

    Your update shows a common sense and fair outcome. (I wonder why that couldn’t have been done with the police department.)

    Corporation have different goals and pressures that aren’t as flexible as those of individuals. If a corporation doesn’t meet the investors’ expected rate of return, they’ll invest elsewhere. But, individuals have “their own time” where they can do what they want using their individual value system rather than a value system dictated by the market place. Threat of loss, as in this case, motivates companies and levels the playing fields for them. They can tell the shareholders, “It’s either this or we lose a big class-action lawsuit.” Investors understand that. You can’t fault businesses for the way that they have to act.

    The Dodger’s are in first place in the NL West. I wonder how people would react if RHP Jason Schmidt comes back and runs his ERA up to nine or ten and causes the Dodgers to fall back? Do you think that they would have him dumped out on skid row? Baseball and business are two areas where compassion is hard to find.

  8. Pokey Says:

    Liberals Hate Choice
    Ask a liberal to make a hard choice and they often squirm and look for ways out of the predicament, which usually involves spending someone else’s money to keep them from having to make a tough choice.

    The overburdened hospitals are a classic choice issue. Sixty percent of LA County’s uninsured patients are not U.S. citizens. More than half are here illegally. About 2 million undocumented aliens in Los Angeles County alone are crowding emergency rooms because they can’t afford to go to the doctor and know if they go to the emergency room they will be treated for free.

    Who should the US taxpayers pay for?
    1) Elderly US citizens who cannot afford healthcare or housing? (the issue at hand)
    2) The people in Mexico who cannot afford basic healthcare.
    3) The children of Africa who cannot afford basic healthcare.
    4) The illegal aliens who have broken into US and stole an identity to work.
    5) US citizens who have lost a job to illegal aliens who work for less and cannot afford health insurance.

    Please make your choice

    From 1993 to 2003, the U.S. population grew by 12 percent but emergency room visits grew by 27 percent. Most of this increase is directly related to illegal aliens.

  9. listener_on_the_sidelines Says:

    Apologies to H. L. Menken if my recollection is imprecise…

    “for every complex problem there is a simple solution, and it is almost always wrong”

  10. richard locicero Says:

    Pokey let me tell you a story. T.R. Reid was the London Correspondent for the Washington POST. Shortly after he arrived in town with his family his five year old daughter developed a severe ear infection. It got so bad that he decided to take her to the “Casuality Dept.” (British for ER) of the nearest hospital. While she was being treated he asked the nurse where the business office was and was told, “This is Britain, we don’t charge people for medical care!”

    Reid writes about that nin his book on Europe. Its the same all over the continent and it made him a believer in the health care systems there. As to all those “illegals” in our ERS. Well since their penny-pinching greedy employers pay them minimum wage (if they’re lucky) with no health insurance where are they supposed to go?

    Ever eat at at fast food joint? stay at a motel? Who do you think was making your bed? Working the line? Why not ask why they don’t hire American citizens. They’ll tell you they can’t find any. They mean at the wage they are willing to pay? Will you pay a little more for a burger? To spend the night at a roadside Inn? If so fine! If not STFU!

  11. Pokey Says:

    Che Guevera’s ID is Stolen
    Actually my co-workers name is notChe but is Guevera and her SSN was stolen by someone (Illegal?) who had been working in Bakersfield. This thief lost their job and collected six months of un-employment using notChe’s SSN.

    The state of California does not care if you use the same SSN to work fulltime in ten different cities at the same time, but hates you to work and collect un-employment at the same time.

    The state decided to take a pro-active approach to the situation by garnishing notChe Guevera’s paycheck to retrieve the double dipping that was occurring in Bakersfield and Anaheim.

    After several thousand dollar in attorneys fees and months of loosing half a pay check, notChe was able to clear her name and get the state off her back.

    Just one more example of a victimless crime with a real victim.

  12. Woody Says:

    “This is Britain, we don’t charge people for medical care!”

    HA!!!! What a joke. rlc, Britain charges people plenty for medical care. Those people are called taxpayers. Oh, isn’t that like illegals getting “free” care here?

    Pokey, I vote YES for #’s 1 & 5 only, and with limits on those.

  13. Pokey Says:

    Health Care Reform
    I am 100% behind you Richard on requiring ALL businesses to provide health insurance for all employees and if a person works half time, require the business to pay half the cost.

    I believe that this single act of legislation would reduce the illegal immigration problem and end our ER crisis.

  14. richard locicero Says:

    That’s right the system is tax funded with NO charges at the point of service. And it even covers visitors! BTW get your care for free? Want to compare bills? Did you know that travelers here are told it would not be a good idea to get sick here because of the bills?

    Ever think what it would be like to ive in a civilized society?

    No I don’t think so!

  15. Woody Says:

    Want medical costs down? Limit malpractice awards sought by greedy lawyers and awarded by stupid juries. Then, more people could afford it.

    When it began, company paid hospitalization insurance was offered voluntarily by companies as an incentive to get workers in a competitive labor market. It should remain the decision of each company as to whether or not to offer the insurance. I strongly object to Congress voting benefits for which they don’t raise taxes and expect businesses to pay–just like the minimum wage.

    Where’s personal responsibility?

    BTW, if Congress really wanted people to afford health care rather than depend on government, there is a lot of legislation that they could pass, such as making all health care premiums deductible, whether you itemize or not. But, noooooo. They want to control you. The problem could be solved very quickly, but the lousy Democrats want to run your life for you and control you.

    Let’s dump the indigent at the steps of the offices of Congressmen and let them pay for them out of their own pockets.

  16. Pokey Says:

    Health Care Reform
    When everything is free, you get what you pay for.

    Canadian and British doctors see 50% more patients than American doctors.

    Among women who are diagnosed with breast cancer:
    20% die if in the United States
    33% die in France and Germany,
    49% die in United Kingdom and New Zealand.

    51% in UK and 41% in Canada found long waits for non-emergency surgery.

    We need reform, but we also need to maintain market incentives.

  17. Woody Says:

    Pokey, I just read an article, well as much as I could stand, in liberal Scientific American saying that Canada’s health care system is better than that in the U.S.

    We’re Number Two: Canada Has as Good or Better Health Care than the U.S.

    The ultimate conclusion of the study is that the Canadian medical system is as good as the U.S. version, at least when measured by a single metric—the rate at which patients in either system died.

    Wellll, that proves it! Now, my study shows that people in the U.S. and those in Canada have the same death ratios–eventually everyone is dead!

    Also, when people compare France to us, keep in mind that France uses a different system to keep score, such as not recording as a death stillborn births whereas the U.S. does count those.

    But what will happen with any flawed study calling for government control of health care? Here’s a hint from the article.

    This research may already be having an impact on policy debate: According to Woolhandler, Ohio democratic congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich has plans to circulate the results of this study to Congress.

    I, also, suppose that we’re supposed to pay for people who can afford health care but choose not to buy it because a new car looks more appealing.

    I favor government control of medical care as much as Celeste favors government control of the media.

  18. richard locicero Says:

    Nonsense. “Market Incentives” mean wasting funds on administration, comissions, sales, profits. Up to a third. Medicare here in the US has an overhead of about 3 per cent. Check the league tables on life expectancy, infant mortality, etc. All of the European countries plus Canada beat us and at less cost. The US spends half again as much per capita as the next most expensive national system and has 40 million uninsured. Plus the costliest prescription drugs.

    Poinjt is in other societies medical problems are a personal tragedy not a financial catastrophy. Half of the personal bankruptcies in the United States are related to crushing medical bills according to a Harvard Law School Study. And your region, the South, has the highest per capita rate of personal bankruptcies.

  19. Woody Says:

    So? Look, if there are ways to make the private health care system more affordable and to make health insurance affordable, then that is preferable to putting this huge part of our economy under goverment control–and, it can be done if government didn’t block that.

    When spouting statistics, you need to look at the explanation of the numbers rather than just the numbers themselves.

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