Los Angeles County Supervisors To Investigate Hospitals Discharge Policies
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Monday launched an investigation into allegations that Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center and the County-University of Southern California Medical Center routinely transport some discharged patients to downtown Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times reports. The investigation comes after a report released by the Los Angeles Police Department accusing three hospitals and suburban law enforcement agencies of "dumping" homeless people, criminals and people with substance abuse problems in downtown.
Supervisor Mike Antonovich called the practice "unacceptable" and plans to introduce a motion on Tuesday that would require the county Department of Public Social Services to evaluate patients before they are taken to facilities downtown or elsewhere.
Antonovich aide Tony Bell said the supervisor also wants to examine the option of moving some homeless and mental health programs concentrated in downtown to county hospitals and surrounding communities.
Some social service agencies already are establishing programs that coordinate care between clinics, County-USC and service providers. Another project being developed would assign frequent users of hospital services a primary medical home and case manager to ensure doctors' appointments are kept.
The county Department of Health Services on Monday ordered a review of discharges from the county's five hospitals. County DHS also said it would ask CEOs at the hospitals "to designate a person responsible for patient discharges to ensure that no patient is inappropriately discharged to skid row."
DHS Director and Chief Medical Officer Thomas Garthwaite also on Monday defended the hospitals against claims that some patients appeared to be seriously ill when they were discharged to downtown. Garthwaite said, "It is the department's policy that patients are not to be discharged unless they are medically stable."
In a letter to LAPD Chief William Bratton on Monday, Garthwaite said patients discharged to downtown lived in the area and there is no evidence that patients who did not live downtown were sent there for additional services (DiMassa/Winton, Los Angeles Times, 11/29).
KPCC's "AirTalk" on Monday discussed the issue with:
- Andy Bales, president of the Union Rescue Mission;
- Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, Los Angeles County supervisor; and
- Jim Lott, executive vice president of the Hospital Association of Southern California (Mantle, "AirTalk," KPCC, 11/28).
The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer. 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.