Judge Upholds Los Angeles County Health Department’s Disciplinary Action Against Psychiatric Hospitals
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has denied a request from Hollywood Community Hospital and City of Angels Medical Center-Ingleside for a preliminary injunction to overturn an order from the county Department of Mental Health that "removed the psychiatric hospitals' authority to detain and treat mentally ill patients against their will," the Los Angeles Times reports. The health department took the disciplinary action earlier this year after the hospitals discharged five psychiatric patients to an unlicensed boardinghouse, where they subsequently died. In the court case, the county argued that the hospitals "should have known about the deplorable conditions" at the boardinghouses, including dirty kitchens and bathrooms, overcrowding and medications that were "stored in the open." The hospitals argued that they are being "improperly punished" for situations beyond their control because patients have the right to choose where to live, including unlicensed boardinghouses. The hospitals say that in addition to hurting them monetarily, the county's sanctions will leave psychiatric patients without treatment options. However, health department officials say that there are more than 40 alternative facilities within the county (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 9/7).
In related news, the Los Angeles Times yesterday examined the increasing number of unlicensed boardinghouses that provide psychiatric care in Los Angeles County. County officials say the facilities "exist in a regulatory netherworld" and do not follow many rules established to protect patients. While facilities that provide care and other services, including distributing Social Security checks and supervision medical care, are required to be licensed by the state, many unlicensed boardinghouses provide the services illegally, the Times reports. Officials say that without oversight, patient abuses are difficult to identify until it is "too late." The county has begun taking court action against some of the homes, but many remain operational while the court cases are pending. According to Department of Social Services spokesperson John Gordon, state officials must "depend on operators to be honest ... and to seek a license if one is required," the Times reports. "It's a tricky deal. When we find someone that's unlicensed, we don't have a lot of jurisdiction. ... We don't have the authority to shut them down," Gordon said (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 9/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.