MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
The Los Angeles city attorney announced criminal charges today against the hospital chain Kaiser Permanente. One of the company's hospitals allegedly discharged a homeless patient and sent her by taxi dressed only be a hospital gown to the city's Skid Row. Officials in L.A. have been trying to crackdown on so-called patient dumping. This is the first time they've brought formal charges. NPR's Ina Jaffe reports from Los Angeles.
INA JAFFE: The incident was caught on video tape by a security camera broadcast on every TV station in town and shown again today in a news conference by city attorney Rocky Delgadillo. The tape begins by a woman getting out of a taxi in front of the Union Rescue Mission.
Mr. ROCKY DELGADILLO (City Attorney, Los Angeles): Now is wandering around, in the streets. As you can see she has a hospital gown on, a sweatshirt and socks.
JAFFE: Sixty-three year old Carol Reyes had been discharged from a Kaiser Permanente hospital in the city of Bellflower. That's 16 miles away from L.A.'s Skid Row, where the streets, sidewalks and missions are home to more than 10,000 people with no other homes.
Reyes was eventually taken in off the sidewalk, by an employee of the Union Rescue Mission. In announcing the charges today, Delgadillo noted that this was not an isolated incident.
Mr. DELGADILLO: To all the hospitals who are dumping on Skid Row, take note, the city of Los Angeles is fighting back. And we are going to make sure that you are held accountable.
JAFFE: The city filed both criminal and civil charges. They include dependent adult endangerment and unfair business practices. A law frequently used to go after slumlords. Also, the ACLU and other law firms are representing Carol Reyes in a civil suit against Kaiser, alleging elder abuse and medical malpractice. Mark Rosenbaum the legal director of the ACLU of southern California noted that Carol Reyes was in such bad shape that she lost consciousness within three days of her discharge, injured her head, and had to be admitted to another hospital.
Mr. MARK ROSENBAUM (Legal Director, ACLU): And had to be treated for high blood pressure, pneumonia, chronic anemia and dementia. The illegal, the inhumane and shameful actions of medical personnel at Kaiser, Bellflower degrade and trash the Hippocratic oath and were in fact a certain prescription for physical harm and physical and mental suffering.
JAFFE: Diana Bonta, Kaiser's vice president of public affairs, says she was surprised by the charges filed today since the city attorney was well aware that Kaiser has worked to improve their discharge policies. The issue of providing healthcare for the homeless, she says is something that can't be solved by focusing on an isolated incident. It's society's problem.
Ms. DIANA BONTA (Vice President of Public Affairs, Kaiser Permanente): We find ourselves in a very difficult situation when it comes time for discharge. When there are not the services available to be able to have that person then go to the next level of care.
JAFFE: Kaiser is not the only hospital under scrutiny. The city attorney is still investigating other alleged incidents. But, Delgadillo says these cases can be difficult to make.
Mr. DELGADILLO: One of the biggest problems that the victims are the perfect victim - hard to find, often they have mental challenges, hard to get them and come and testify if they sometimes don't even remember the story of what happened to them.
JAFFE: But, Carol Reyes is easy to find. She now lives at Hope Gardens with a couple of dozen other elderly ladies who used to be homeless run by the Union Rescue Mission, it's in a former retirement community in the hills above L.A. And nothing like Skid Row.
Ina Jaffe, NPR news, Los Angeles.
BLOCK: You can see the videotape of Carol Ann Reyes on the streets of L.A. at NPR.org.
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