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How Prevalent Is "Patient Dumping" By California Hospitals?

As San Diego medical malpractice attorneys, we are concerned that “patient dumping” is still common among California hospitals. The term refers to the illegal practice of prematurely discharging or refusing to treat poor patients because they cannot afford to pay for their medical care.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer recently announced that Beverly Hospital in Montebello will pay $250,000 to resolve allegations of patient dumping. According to the legal documents, the hospital failed to perform a proper screening of a dependent adult with an emergency medical condition, failed to stabilize and transfer the patient, then improperly discharged the patient to Skid Row, dropping her off in a taxi without arrangements with family or a shelter.

“‘Patient dumping’ is inhumane and intolerable to me,” Feuer said. “I do have it in my mind to send a message to other hospitals that this won’t be tolerated.”

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, patient dumping in California made national headlines nearly a decade ago, resulting in civil fines, criminal charges, and public outcry. In one of the most egregious cases, a homeless paraplegic man was found on the streets with a colostomy bag still in place.

While many had hoped that hospitals were no longer engaging in the practice, patient dumping now appears to be reemerging. The Times cites growing reports of people with medical wristbands in Skid Row and other areas frequented by the homeless. In another recent high-profile case of patient dumping, the city of San Francisco sued the state of Nevada for transporting patients out-of-state and failing to arrange for their care.

While the authorities cannot take enforcement action until they uncover evidence of illegal patient dumping, we are hopeful that the increased scrutiny will encourage hospitals to adopt policies and procedures that protect the safety of the most vulnerable patients.