NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 6, 2008

In Los Angeles, a new city ordinance makes it a misdemeanor for health facilities to transport a patient to a place other than his or her residence without written consent, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The city is cracking down after embarrassing episodes in which some hospitals dumped homeless patients onto downtown's skid row before they were well enough to care for themselves:

  • The Los Angeles Times reported last year that Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center attempted to leave a paraplegic man on a gurney at the Midnight Mission, hours before he was left in a skid row gutter.
  • Hollywood Presbyterian (pictured) is one of three health-care facilities to have reached an agreement with the L.A. City Attorney's office settling investigations into alleged incidences of patient dumping.

But hospitals are worried the new ordinance may put an undue burden on them.  While several have admitted failings and are revising procedures for discharge planning, they also say many patients refuse to leave.

In hospitals, patients have a "nice, warm bed, three meals a day and maybe even a television and people waiting on them.  They are literally saying to us, 'I don't want to go.  If you discharge me, I will call the L.A. Times,'" said Carol Meyer, director of governmental relations for the Los Angeles County's Department of Health Services.

Source: Sarah Rubenstein, "Los Angeles Bars Hospitals from Dumping Homeless Patients," Wall Street Journal, August 4, 2008.

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