Los Angeles has settled an alleged "patient dumping" case against Good Samaritan Hospital for $450,000, City Attorney Mike Feuer announced Thursday.
The case involved a homeless patient who had gone to Good Samaritan in Dec. 2014 with a foot infection, he said. The man - who was not identified to protect his privacy - needed further treatment after being discharged, but the facility just gave him a bus token, said Feuer.
The hospital disputes the allegations but said in a statement, "rather than expend its limited resources on protracted litigation, Good Samaritan Hospital agreed to settle."
The settlement will be divided between the city, the county and community organizations that help the homeless. The hospital also agreed to follow the city attorney office's protocols for discharging vulnerable patients.
Feuer said he has made cracking down on the dumping of homeless patients a priority.
"To any medical facility who will be following this coverage today, we have other cases under investigation in this office," he said. "We do have partners in the business community, the streets, the Skid Row area and elsewhere in the city, and those partnerships are going to continue to yield information that we are going to follow up on and pursue as vigorously as this."
This is the fourth patient dumping case Feuer has settled since he took office three years ago. The other cases:
- August, 2014: Glendale Adventist settled with the city for $700,000 for allegedly dumping patients on Skid Row for four years. The hospital denied the accusation.
- May 2014: Pacifica Hospital of the Valley settled with the city for $500,000 after it was accused of dropping a patient off on Skid Row.
- January 2014: Beverly Hospital of Montebello agreed to a $250,000 settlement over its alleged dumping of a patient on Skid Row.
One other lawsuit, filed in 2015 against Gardens Regional Hospital and Medical Center in Hawaiian Gardens, is set for trial in October.
Feuer said his office has met with the Hospital Association of Southern California to try to get all of the region's medical centers to institute standard discharge protocols. The Hospital Association has not responded to a request for comment.
"We know this is a complex situation," Feuer said. That’s why "at the very inception, before there is a patient, hospitals should have a preexisting relationship with locations to which one could be discharged for recuperative care."
Typically hospitals do have a discharge plan ready for patients, said Jennifer Bayer, spokeswoman for the Hospital Association.
The group has been meeting with the city attorney's office for years on this issue but has not come to an agreement on the best protocols, she said.
One of the challenges concerns homeless individuals who refuse to go to recuperative care or a shelter and prefer to be discharged to the street, Bayer said.
"There are a lot of things we agree on, but it’s these rare events when the individual is not compliant and wants to go to Echo Park or wherever they want to go," Bayer said. "At a certain point you have to allow the individual to do what they want to do."
Good Samaritan Hospital said it fully evaluates all patients and provides discharge planning.
"The Hospital's standard practice with homeless patients is to work with them on discharge planning that includes identifying post-discharge placement options that are available given their condition and helping to facilitate the placement if the patient accepts the recommendations," the hospital said in its statement.
Noting the rise in the city's homeless population in recent years, Good Samaritan said it and other hospitals "provide emergency services to homeless patients, and struggle to place homeless patients when they are discharged because of the inadequate resources to meet their housing and medical needs."