The Los Angeles city attorney's office filed false-imprisonment and dependent-care-endangerment charges against hospital giant Kaiser Permanente on Wednesday, the first criminal prosecution of a medical center accused of 'dumping' patients on skid row.You have to start to wonder if something has really gone systemically wrong with the upper management of the once proud Kaiser Permanente organization, which is still, as best as I can tell, staffed by quite a few dedicated doctors, nurses, and other health professionals. Of course, what we have so far are only allegations. But the story as reported by the Los Angeles Times is very disturbing, and the city attorney obviously thought this case was egregious enough to merit criminal charges. Stay tuned.
The charges stem from an incident earlier this year when a 63-year-old patient from Kaiser Permanente's Bellflower hospital was videotaped as she left a taxi in gown and socks, and then wandered skid row streets.
In addition to the criminal charges, the city attorney filed a civil lawsuit against Kaiser, using a state law on unfair business practices that city prosecutors usually implement against unscrupulous slumlords to force them to clean up their buildings. The suit seeks a judge's order to forbid all Kaiser medical facilities from dumping homeless patients on skid row or impose financial sanctions if it violates the order.
A Kaiser spokeswoman on Wednesday said she was 'very surprised' by the charges.
'I can't understand how these charges would be levied based on what I know of the incident,' said Diana Bonta, vice president of public affairs for Kaiser Southern California.
She said Kaiser had changed some of its practices since the March incident to better serve discharged homeless patients.
[The patient] Reyes also is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and Public Counsel. Representatives from both organizations said Wednesday that they planned to file a second lawsuit on Reyes' behalf soon.
'This is the first case in the nation where there is a joint effort by government and civil rights groups to halt the practice of hospital dumping,' said Mark Rosenbaum, the ACLU's legal director.
Rosenbaum said that meetings with Kaiser and hospitals failed to yield reform — and that was part of the reason for the court filings. 'It is like they lit a match to the Hippocratic oath,' he said.
Dan Grunfeld, president and chief executive officer of Public Counsel, the largest pro-bono legal firm in the nation, echoed that sentiment. 'This is as stark a case as you are likely to find,' he said. 'You have a relatively older woman in adult diapers and gown dumped on a skid row sidewalk. That is a pretty profound statement. Ms Reyes is not alone. There are a lot of Ms. Reyes' out there. We hope to achieve a systemic change.'
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