(NaturalNews) A Los Angeles hospital is being sued by a mentally ill paraplegic man who claims that he was dumped in a gutter and abandoned by hospital employees after being discharged.
The lawsuit alleges that employees of the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center drove Gabino Olvera, 42, in a van to "Skid Row," a section of Los Angeles known for its high concentration of homeless people, and dumped him in a gutter without a wheelchair, dressed only in a dirty hospital gown.
According to witnesses who came to the man's assistance and video cameras from a nearby homeless shelter, Olvera placed his hospital papers and other documents between his teeth and began to drag himself forward by his arms, while the hospital driver sat in the van applying makeup and then drove off.
Los Angeles is "ground zero in the fight against unlawful dumping of homeless patients by hospitals," said Hernan Vera, a lawyer with Public Counsel, which helped bring the lawsuit against Hollywood Presbyterian. Olvera's case, Vera said, is "the most obscene and callous example of this practice that we have seen."
Approximately 50 cases were reported in 2007 of homeless, sick or mentally confused patients being dropped off by ambulances in the 50-block area known as Skid Row, where an estimated 12,000 homeless people are believed to live and sleep.
In response to the lawsuit, Hollywood Presbyterian announced that it had conducted a thorough review of its patient discharge policies to make sure that such dumping would not occur in the future. The hospital said that it hopes to reach an out-of-court settlement.
Olvera's is not the first lawsuit against a hospital for patient dumping in Los Angeles. In May, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals settled a similar lawsuit by agreeing to improve discharge procedures, including by finding places in shelters for all discharged homeless patients. Kaiser also agreed to pay $500,000 to homeless services in Skid Row.