College Hospital in Costa Mesa just became on of the most charitable hospitals around, but not out of its own goodwill. As part of a settlement agreement in a lawsuit filed by the LA City Attorney's office against College Hospitals in Costa Mesa and Cerritos for their egregious patient dumping schemes, the two facilities will pay $1.2 million to a handful of charities in LA that work with the homeless and $400,00 in penalties.
A year ago when it was revealed that the hospital might be involved in a scheme where psychiatric patients from both of its facilities were being driven to LA's skid row and dumped at various non-profit centers that work with the mentally-ill, LA City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo said the prosecuting of such an intra-county case would be the first of its kind (this was before the revelation that neighboring Tustin Hospital and its owner Pacific Health Corp. might also be involved in similar schemes; That investigation is ongoing).
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At the time, LA prosecutors were hesitant to say whether or not College Hospital was indeed dumping patients. But a year-long investigation culminating in a lawsuit and settlement agreement (both announced today), confirms that the two facilities dumped as many as 150 patients on skid row over two years as part of an elaborate cross-county scheme. Some of the patients dumped weren't homeless, but the hospital often didn't bother to check in with their families. The settlement agreement is the largest to date of any hospital whose discharge practices have been investigated by the LA City Attorney's office.
Delgadillo's office filed both the lawsuit and the settlement agreement today. The two parties had been negotiating the settlement agreement prior to the filing of the suit, Frank Mateljan, spokesperson for the city attorney's office, told the Weekly, which is what allowed for the suit and the agreement to be filed jointly. In addition to the fees, the settlement requires that College Hospital create and implement hospital discharge policies that will prohibit dumping. It will also be subjected to a first-of-its-kind injunction which prohibits both of its facilities from transporting mentally-ill homeless patients to the streets or a homeless shelter within an established "Patient Safety Zone."
The investigation began in April of last year, when College Hospital in Costa Mesa dumped suicidal, schizophrenic patient Steve Davis at the Union Rescue Mission in downtown LA's skid row, without notifying the facility or Davis's family. URM wasn't equipped to handle such patients so they called College Hospital and asked them to retrieve him. A hospital van picked Davis up and then dumped him at another facility, again without notifying the facility. Instead of checking in, Davis wandered the streets until he arrived at a downtown clinic that called the fire department. He was then transferred to another medical center, which then located an appropriate facility for Davis and contacted his family.
In most of the similar cases investigated by the City Attorney's office, patients were dumped at facilities that were not notified in advance, and rarely were they escorted in after being dumped.