LOS ANGELES — On behalf of a mentally-disabled, 63-year-old homeless woman who was left on Skid Row in just a hospital gown and socks, the ACLU of Southern California, Public Counsel Law Center and the law firm Girardi and Keese filed a lawsuit today against Kaiser Permanente in order to stop the hospital's practice of dumping patients in Downtown Los Angeles.
"In this city, we don't 'dump patients' as if they were disposable rubbish," said Mark Rosenbaum, legal director for the ACLU/SC. "The practices brought to light are like throwing fuel on the already raging fire of homelessness on Skid Row. Kaiser's actions are medical and moral malpractice."
The lawsuit, which was filed in Superior Court, came one day after City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo filed a similar suit against Kaiser on behalf of the people of Los Angeles. Both suits seek to enjoin the practice of dumping homeless patients on Skid Row.
"What happened to our client is horrific and tragic," said Dan Grunfeld, president/CEO of Public Counsel. "This lawsuit is being brought not only to protect her but also to establish safeguards that will prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again."
In March the woman, who is seeking damages from Kaiser, was captured on security cameras wandering on a Skid Row street wearing only two hospital gowns, a diaper and a pair of hospital socks. She was discharged from Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center in the afternoon, rushed into a taxi without her clothes and dropped off in front of the Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row. The woman, who was homeless, had been living in Gardena, but was dropped 16 miles away in a part of town where she had no ties to the community.
The woman was discharged with no money, no identification other than a hospital bracelet, no medication and no personal belongings. Mission staff found her a bed, but within three days of her discharge she was readmitted to the hospital, this time to Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center.
According to the lawsuit: "This case seeks to put an end to this inhumane and illegal practice. (The) plaintiff is informed and believes that Kaiser has engaged in this conduct with full knowledge that the persons it transports to Skid Row will not continue to heal or recuperate in that setting and that no social service agency on or near Skid Row can provide for the rehabilitative and medical care these persons require."
In December 2005, the City Attorney's office sent a warning letter to many local hospitals regarding possible legal action to stop the practice of dumping. In March, several members of the Los Angeles City Council also sent a letter to hospital chiefs about the practice and since the spring several groups have been in discussion with Kaiser about preventing further patients from being dumped, but the hospital has thus far made no commitment to ending the practice.