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L.A. Hospital Sued for Obscene Case of Patient Dumping

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, January 18, 2008 12:31 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: Wrongful Death, Medical Malpractice


Lawsuit over L.A. patient dumping, procedure called obscene


Gabino Olvera is 42 years old, a paraplegic who lost the use of his legs in a car crash. He has mental problems and is homeless. 

Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center took him in February 2007 because the downtown Skid Row mission had no room for him. 

He reportedly spent eight hours in a wheelchair in the lobby before being driven more than six miles by van to a homeless area and left him in a soiled hospital gown in the street without a wheelchair and blocks from any shelter.  He had a catheter attached.

Witnesses say Olvera clenched his discharge papers in his teeth while dragging himself on the ground while the van driver reapplied her makeup before driving off.

The entire incident was captured on videotape at a nearby homeless shelter.

The lawyer representing Olvera calls this, “The most obscene and callous example of this practice that we have seen.” 

The lawsuit, filed in Superior Court, charges the hospital did not investigate Olvera’s mental illness and failed to treat his urinary tract infection then discharged him in a helpless condition.

"It was like they lit a match to the Hippocratic oath," said Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

The lawsuit alleges negligence, abuse of a dependent adult, breach of fiduciary duty. It names the hospital’s corporate owners, the transportation company and the van driver that left Olvera on Skid Row.

There is no city law specifically barring patient dumping.

The hospital says this will never happen again and hopes to reach an out-of-court settlement with Olvera’s lawyers who want want to change the way local hospitals treat the homeless.

The suit, filed by the ACLU, the Public Counsel Law Center and a local law firm, seeks unspecified damages. It is set for trial April 15. 

But the Olvera case is not an isolated one.

In downtown Los Angeles, center of many missions and homeless encampments, about 50 patients have been left by ambulances over the past year. Many are sick and confused, addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals has settled a lawsuit for the way it dumped another patient, a 63-year old woman suffering from dementia who was wearing a hospital gown and socks when she was dumped.  

Kaiser was charged with false-imprisonment and dependant-care-endangerment, laws used to prosecute slum landlords. It was one novel way to address the growing problem.

Laurie Levenson, a law professor at Loyola Law School tells the Los Angeles Times, "Corporations can be charged with crimes," she said. "In many ways it is better to go after the corporate entity as a prosecutor when it is a matter of policy and practice."

Now Kaiser, the country’s largest non-profit health care provider has agreed to find shelters for all patients it discharges and will pay $500,000 to homeless services in the Los Angeles downtown area known as Skid Row. 

Estimates on the number of homes people in the United States range from one half to one million.   #



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