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L.A. Measure To Penalize Hospitals for ‘Patient Dumping’ Advances

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council voted 12-1 to grant preliminarily approval to an ordinance aimed at deterring hospitals from discharging homeless patients to the streets, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The measure would permit hospitals to be fined up to $25,000 and charged with misdemeanors for discharging patients anywhere other than their residence without written consent.

If the measure receives majority approval from the council next week, it will go before the mayor for final approval.

Background

Since 2005, the city attorney's office has investigated more than 50 cases of patient dumping, in which patients are dropped off by a taxi or ambulance, oftentimes on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles.

City officials said the ordinance was necessary because their efforts to create a state law failed in October 2007, when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) vetoed a bill that would have prohibited patient dumping.

Because there are no criminal statutes on the practice, Los Angeles prosecutors have relied primarily on civil actions against hospitals suspected of dumping, the Times reports.

Opposition

Council member Tom LaBonge, the lone dissenter on the ordinance, said he thought the city should not take responsibility for patient dumping without seeking input from Los Angeles County, which governs public health for the region.

Officials from the Hospital Association of Southern California, representing more than 170 hospitals, opposed the ordinance and said hospitals could lose federal funding if they are convicted of a misdemeanor.

Officials from the city attorney's office disputed that interpretation of federal law (DiMassa, Los Angeles Times, 5/15).

Broadcast Coverage

KCRW's "Which Way, L.A.?" on Wednesday included a discussion with L.A. City Council member Jan Perry and Jim Lott, executive vice president of HASC, about the city council's decision (Onley, "Which Way, L.A.?," KCRW, 5/14).

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