LA sues Gardens Regional Hospital for alleged patient dumping [updated]

A sign reading 'Skid Row' is painted on a wall next to the Los Angeles Mission, Sept. 22, 2014, in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles' Skid Row contains one of the largest populations of homeless people in the United States.
A sign reading 'Skid Row' is painted on a wall next to the Los Angeles Mission, Sept. 22, 2014, in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles' Skid Row contains one of the largest populations of homeless people in the United States.
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

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The Los Angeles City Attorney has filed a civil lawsuit against another area hospital for alleged "patient dumping." The facility is strongly denying any wrongdoing. 

In the lawsuit, filed Tuesday, City Attorney Mike Feuer alleges that Gardens Regional Hospital and Medical Center in Hawaiian Gardens dumped a homeless woman with a history of mental illness and chronic disease on Skid Row last September. She was left in front of the Union Rescue Mission, "clad only in hospital paper tops and bottoms, and had no money, identification, medication or telephone," according to the lawsuit.

The hospital had previously discharged the woman at least five times between December 2013 and September 2014, with minimal or no discharge plans or instructions for future care, the suit alleges. 

"Patient dumping is unconscionable and will not be tolerated in this City," Feuer said in a statement. "We're continuing to do everything we can to stop it. Every patient, regardless of housing status, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect when he or she is discharged."

Gardens Regional denied the charges, asserting in a statement that it is "appalled by the baseless, false and misleading allegations" in the suit. The nonprofit hospital added that it "is shocked by the Los Angeles City Attorney's over-reaching action against this community hospital located in another city."

The lawsuit details how the female patient - called Jane Roe in the complaint - was in and out of the hospital, had a documented history of schizophrenia, was at times suicidal, and had a history of alcohol abuse, intermittent drug abuse, uncontrolled diabetes, obesity and homelessness.

The day the hospital dumped the woman on Skid Row, the suit alleges, the facility's records say she was discharged to "home," although her address was noted as "homeless."

After she was left on Skid Row, the woman bounced to the Midnight Mission and was later found sleeping behind a liquor store, according to the suit. A few days later, she returned to the Garden emergency department, intoxicated, it says.

The next morning, the lawsuit alleges, the facility "discharged Jane Roe without any attempt to provide her with an adequate discharge plan; and again, without a call or referral to her primary care physician, or any mental health facility or alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility."

The lawsuit claims the hospital knew the patient was likely to continue suffering "adverse health consequences upon discharge without adequate discharge planning," and "knew, or should have known, that Jane Roe was mentally incapable of following up with any medical services."

Jane Roe was eventually transported to Silver Lake Medical Center, where she was admitted for schizophrenia exacerbation, the suit notes, adding that her condition improved with treatment, and she was later discharged to a board and care facility.

Feuer is seeking an injunction against Gardens Regional, its officers, directors and employees, that would prohibit them from failing to provide proper discharge and treatment plans for patients, and from transporting and abandoning patients in their care, according to the city attorney's statement. The hospital could also face additional civil penalties up to $2,500 for each violation, the city attorney says.

The suit against Garden Regional Hospital and Medical Center is Feuer's latest effort to end patient dumping.

The City Attorney’s Office has settled three cases of alleged patient dumping since January 2014. Last August, Glendale Adventist Medical Center agreed to pay $700,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by Feuer that accused the hospital of illegally dumping mentally ill and disabled homeless patients on Skid Row for four years. Glendale Adventist did not concede any wrongdoing in that case.

In January 2014, Beverly Hospital of Montebello agreed to pay the city $250,000 in civil penalties and legal fees to settle a lawsuit over its alleged illegal dumping of a homeless patient on Skid Row. And in May 2014, Pacific Hospital of the Valley agreed to pay $500,000 to homeless service providers and modify its discharge policies, after it was accused of taking a mentally ill homeless patient to Skid Row.

— This story has been updated.