LOS ANGELES (CN) - Glendale Adventist Medical Center reached a $700,000 settlement Wednesday with Los Angeles over claims that it dumped mentally ill homeless patients on Skid Row.
In revealing the deal at a press conference this morning, city attorney Mike Feuer also announced a partnership with the California Hospital Association and creation of a tip line to end patient dumping in the crime-ridden area in downtown L.A.
Feuer refused to discuss specifics of the allegations against the hospital. He said the city had alleged multiple incidents of patient dumping during a period beginning in June. Los Angeles sued
the Glendale hospital last week in Superior Court.
Feuer said a tip from Skid Row prompted the filing.
In addition to a $500,000 civil penalty, the settlement includes $100,000 to cover the city's legal costs. Los Angeles will donate the remaining $100,000 to L.A. Family Housing in North Hollywood.
The Aug. 20 lawsuit accused the hospital of dumping homeless, mentally ill, disabled patients on Skid Row. Feuer said that while Glendale "vigorously contested" the allegations, it agreed to adopt protocols for discharge of homeless patients.
"When hospitals dump a patient at the most vulnerable moment in their lives onto Skid Row, they violate their most basic obligations to that patient," Feuer said during the press conference at City Hall.
"Patient dumping disgusts me," the prosecutor said, adding that homeless patients "deserve to recuperate with dignity."
Glendale Adventist Medical Center is the third hospital to reach a settlement with the city this year.
In January, the Beverly Hospital in Montebello settled for $200,000. Pacifica Hospital of the Valley reached a $600,000 settlement in May over alleged patient dumping. The city's crackdown totals more than $1.5 million in fees.
Patient dumping outraged the public almost a decade ago when images of homeless patients walking in Skid Row in hospital gowns began appearing in news reports.
Though legal action and a criminal charge against Kaiser Permanente followed, Feuer said at the press conference that it appears the problem has not gone away.
Feuer also announced that the city planned to "blanket" Skid Row, a 50-block downtown area with a population of more than 17,000, with fliers to encourage tips. The public can share information by calling 213.978.8340.
"Our office is going to pursue every lead, every allegation, that emerges from contacts to this number," Feuer said.
Los Angeles is collaborating with the California Hospital Association to bring the practice of patient dumping to an end. Feuer said he hoped that all Los Angeles-area hospitals adopt protocols to prevent patient dumping.
The protocols ask hospitals to never discharge homeless patients unless they have a "specific plan" in place, the prosecutor said.
Patients should be assessed for mental illness and their "ability to make a decision on their own," the city attorney said. Hospitals should determine if a patient has anywhere to go or if they have relatives or friends, the prosecutor added.
"If they're not capable of making those decisions then it's obviously a very challenging situation for a hospital," the city attorney said. "But the hospital does have obligations under these protocols."
Those obligations include providing a "warm hand" and making sure that homeless shelters are given advance notice of a patient's arrival, Feuer added.
Glendale Adventist Medical Center CEO Kevin Roberts issued a statement that emphasized the hospital's deep commitment "to providing appropriate discharge options to all patients."
"We have adjusted our policies to further align with the city of Los Angeles' specific protocols for the discharge of homeless patients," Roberts added.
Assistant City Attorney Tina Hess and Deputy City Attorney Will Pirkey filed the lawsuit against the Glendale hospital.