Just months after Los Angeles settled legal claims that two local hospitals were dumping patients on Skid Row, City Attorney Mike Feuer filed a lawsuit August 20 against Glendale Adventist Medical Center over its alleged downtown proclivities.
A week later, the hospital settled with the city for $700,000 but denied everything. “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,” hospital spokeswoman Alicia Gonzalez wrote in an email to the Los Angeles Times.
The hospital is said to have “illegally discharged and transported or caused to be transported homeless, mentally-ill, disabled, dependent adult patients who were unable to take care of themselves on Skid Row,” according to Courthouse News Service, which saw the 6-page lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The hospital will pay a $500,000 civil penalty, give $100,000 to the city for its legal time and trouble, and donate $100,000 to L.A. Family Housing in North Hollywood.
The 242-bed Pacifica Hospital of the Valley also disputed allegations that it was dropping off patients on Skid Row but agreed to pony up $500,000 in May as a gesture of good will and promised to revise its discharge policies to mitigate future misunderstandings. Feuer accused the hospital of dumping a patient with a severe mental disability.
None of these incidents approach the notorious activities of College Hospital in Orange County, which agreed to pay $1.6 million in 2009 to settle allegations it had dumped more than 150 patients. The hospital used vans for its weekly drops.
Dumping on L.A.’s Skid Row has probably gone on for decades, but didn’t surface publicly until 2005 when surveillance cameras at the Union Rescue Mission showed mentally ill patients in hospital gowns being dropped off by all manner of conveyances, including an ambulance and police cars. One patient was maneuvering about with a visible colostomy bag.
Skid Row is a 54-block area loaded with homeless people. Its population is estimated to be around 17,749, 3,000 to 6,000 of whom are suspected of being without permanent shelter.
At first, some medical institutions defended the practice of dumping, saying it was necessary to drop their patients on Skid Row because it was the only place in Southern California with a concentration of patient social services like homeless shelters and drug and alcohol programs.
Kaiser Foundation was the first to settle with the city in 2007, paying $500,000 to a charitable foundation and agreeing to work on rules for discharging homeless patients. A city press release quoted Kaiser regional president Dr. Benjamin Chu as noting, “This agreement is an example of what can happen when people of good will sit down together.”
Hospitals and the city have been sharing good will ever since.