Friday, November 17, 2006

Now Kaiser Permanente Hospital Criminally Charged for Patient Dumping

This is getting painful. After Kaiser Permanente was recently in the news for problems with its new electronic medical record system, and allegations of the poor management of the system development process (see posts here, here and here), now the Los Angeles Times is reporting
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.

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.'
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.


kaiserfraud said...

When I worked at Kaiser, a lot of the doctors were complaining about a bunch of "new people" that had migrated over from Bank of America (the headquarters of BofA left the Bay Area around 2000, leaving a lot of business talent floating around). The doctors themselves felt there was a more of a "fiscal" culture.

Of course Kaiser needed some help in the financial responsibility area. They had a brush with financial collapse around 1997, and, as I've been saying all along, the part of that "old Kaiser" culture that puts doctors into enormously powerful IT positions that they aren't qualified for is part of the problem.

I'm with Matt on the fact that the public still hasn't seen any change in regard to the much greater scandal of the kidney transplant program. Over a hundred deaths have been attributed to that. If Kaiser won't make moves to improve transparency and ethics over that, than there's really not much hope.

In short, the doctors have to stop talking about "old Kaiser" culture and stop blaming those "Bank of America people". They need to realize that the doctors are in charge at Kaiser, and they are the ones that need to take responsibility for administrative corruption and poor IT planning.

Anonymous said...

Whatever the culture, it is sick and toxic. Dumping helpless and confused patients on skid row streets is beyond shameful. I am so glad it was captured in Michael Moore's Sicko. It will be imprinted upon the American mind as the real face of the Kaiser culture. One could only wish the CEO of said culture could be taken in adult diapers, disoriented, and dropped off in a skid row neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Hippocratic oath? Have these doctors in charge at Kaiser ever heard of it? How about the old, "First, do no harm" dictum?
These docs would have fit right in with Mengeles and the 3rd Reich.

Anonymous said...

... I went thru a similar process ... just type my name into a search engine ... Jason Grant Garza ... I got denied emergency services ... got a "Nurse Ratched" letter from the arresting agency seeking information and records, I went to CMS & L/C (Center for Medicare and Licensing and Certification) over the illegality only to have them ignore my paperwork, I went to federal court (no lawyer thou I asked, No due process ... not allowed to speak), I then went to the Inspector General (who have now fined the hospital - years later) ... except the victim is left with nothing. No damages, restitution, etc ... the perps (CMS,L/C, SF General) all still have their jobs and I am left to die. Please call Bevan Dufty (415-554-5646) at the SF Board of Supervisors if you don't believe me. Call Nancy Peolsi's Office (415-556-4862) since I have been involved with them for over six years and still sit here empty handed and damaged ... and the band plays on! If I remember correctly the Hippocractic oath was two pronged ... to keep from harm and INJUSTICE the sick, weak and infirmed!