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.