L.A. Hospital Allegedly Dumped Patient on Street
Friday, November 17, 2006
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 16 -- In an unprecedented crackdown on a practice experts say is shamefully common around the country, a major hospital chain was accused by prosecutors Thursday of ridding itself of a homeless patient by dumping her on crime-plagued Skid Row.
A surveillance camera at a rescue mission recorded the demented woman wandering the streets in a hospital gown and slippers in March.
In announcing criminal and civil charges, City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo said a Kaiser Permanente hospital put the woman in a taxi and sent her to the neighborhood even though she had serious, untreated health problems.
The woman found wandering on the street, Carol Ann Reyes, 63, was taken in by the Union Rescue Mission. Its director, Andy Bales, said she continues to be cared for.
"Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, part of Kaiser Permanente, the largest HMO in the nation, will be held accountable for violating state law, its commitment to its patients, its obligations under the Hippocratic oath, and perhaps most importantly, principles of common decency," Delgadillo said.
No U.S. hospital has ever been prosecuted on charges of patient-dumping, said Philip F. Mangano, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Mangano said hospitals need to be held accountable, but he added that it is necessary to "also work with them to resolve these issues."
Kaiser's Bellflower hospital, which discharged the woman, is among 10 Los Angeles area hospitals under investigation on suspicion of discharging homeless patients onto the streets instead of into the custody of a relative or shelter.
The legal actions filed against Kaiser late Wednesday included criminal charges of false imprisonment and dependent-adult endangerment.
Diana Bonta, vice president of public affairs for Kaiser Southern California, said the legal action unfairly demonizes Kaiser, which she said has taken steps to ensure that no more of its patients are left on Skid Row.