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Thursday, February 22nd 2007

You Don't Have To Go Home, But You Can't Stay Here To Become Illegal

The L.A. County District Attorney might not have to keep finding new uses for old laws,

The Los Angeles city attorney has filed criminal charges against just one hospital, Kaiser Permanente, saying the dumping of a homeless woman on skid row in 2006 amounted to false imprisonment. That legal strategy, however, has never been tested in court, and some legal experts question whether it will hold up.

The Los Angeles Police Department put hospitals on notice Wednesday that officers would immediately arrest anyone they saw dumping patients on skid row, using the false imprisonment charge. The LAPD also plans to assign extra officers to look for evidence of dumping.

Because if some California legislators have their way skid row dumping will become illegal,

The new legislation, by state Sen. Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), would make it a misdemeanor for any hospital facility or worker to transport patients anywhere other than their residences without their informed consent.

Individual offenders could be punished by up to two years in County Jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Healthcare facilities that violate the law could be slapped with penalties of up to $10,000.

From all stories these are homeless patients, so they’re clearly not going to be transported “home,” and plenty of them sound incapable of providing informed consent to anything.

There simply aren’t enough social services or shelter beds. They’re either out the front door or dropped off closer to what social services are available – skid row.

“The problem goes back to the lack of social services for homeless and indigent patients who end up in hospitals,” she said. “We are already spending $2 billion in uncompensated care providing medical treatment for indigent patients. Imposing fines or arresting people is not productive.”

The sponsor of the bill, if he was paraphrased correctly by the Los Angeles Times, has a ridiculous response to hospitals’ concerns,

Cedillo says his bill doesn’t ask hospitals to address housing issues but is designed to stop them from contributing to the homelessness problem by failing to plan for discharging patients.

I’m sure Cedillo has never served as a surrogate social worker in discharge planning for a indigent hospital patient. As many medical students across the U.S., I certainly have. I’m not sure what planning he’s imaging beyond finding them a bed. How would any other form of planning help prevent this patient dumping?

I know it is a flamboyant question but how is it these private hospitals’ jobs to find shelter for these patients?

It isn’t superfluous to say, that if you’re in Los Angeles and feel outraged by this you need to do some research and find a hospital accused of skid row dumping; then call them up and offer to take into your home and provide post-hospital services for some of the homeless they care for. Otherwise…