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Was This Patient Dumped Or Dropped Off? Courts Will Decide

Was This Patient Dumped Or Dropped Off? Courts Will Decide

Picture of William Heisel

skid row, los angeles, william heisel, jesse bravo, laura bravo, patient dumping, reporting on health

After a hospital stay, most people get in their car or a loved one's car and go home.

Imagine if you were drugged, put in a van, and dropped off on an unfamiliar street in the middle of winter.

According to a lawsuit filed last week by Public Counsel and attorney Steven D. Archer of Kiesel, Boucher & Larson LLP, here's what happened.

Jesse Bravo, a former aerospace machinist, has been married for 36 years and has four kids. He also has a severe mental disorder. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia nine years ago and stopped working. In January 2011, he was admitted to White Memorial Medical Center, where he stayed for two weeks.

During that time, his wife, Laura Bravo, made daily phone calls to check on him and visited him with some frequency. The hospital at some point decided it was going to give Bravo some lithium, a drug often used as a mood stabilizer, and then discharge him.

No one at the hospital called Laura Bravo to tell her about this plan or to ask her to pick him up at the hospital. Instead, when she went to the hospital to see her husband on February 11, 2011, she found out that he had gone missing.

"Not knowing where he was was very scary," Laura Bravo told Anna Gorman at the Los Angeles Times. "I just had this feeling that something was wrong."

Something was very wrong. According to the lawsuit, hospital staff put Bravo in plastic handcuffs. He protested and asked to see his family. Instead, he was shoved into a van and driven to a transitional living facility about nine miles away.

The van's driver could have walked Bravo into the building and made sure he was admitted and properly cared for. That would have been a minimum, but the lawsuit alleges that he was just dropped off in front of the building. Confused, he fed his remaining doses of medication to a dog and then started wandering the streets. He continued wandering for two days when, at some point, he was beaten so badly that his shoulder was dislocated. Even in Los Angeles, February is a cold time of year to sleep in the streets without warm clothes. He also didn't have any money or identification on him.

On February 13, 2011, police officers found Mr. Bravo on Skid Row attempting to climb into a van.

"White Memorial has set a new low for hospital dumping," Hernan D. Vera, president and chief executive of Public Counsel, told Gorman. "They took someone who was not homeless and made him a homeless man." 

Public Counsel has represented other patient dumping victims since 2006. The hospital also could end up being fined by the federal government for violating the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA).

If you are a health writer, chances are good that you've heard of patient dumping and EMTALA but probably not written about them.

Relative to other problems in health care, dumping doesn't happen that often. But that doesn't mean it's not important. Dumping cases can be indicative of the general quality of care and level of patient safety at the institutions in question.

White Memorial Medical Center spokeswoman Alicia Gonzalez told Gorman, "We investigated this matter and determined that we followed all policies and procedures appropriately. We don't believe this was patient-dumping. It was a patient drop-off."

White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles was founded nearly 100 years ago by the Seventh Day Adventists as part of the church's mission to improve the lives of people in the community and it describes itself as "one of the region's leading not-for-profit hospitals. Services include behavioral medicine, cardiac and vascular care, intensive and general medical care, oncology, orthopedic care, rehabilitation, specialized and general surgery, and women's and children's services."

While other hospitals in the area market their cutting edge research or their comfort and efficiency, White Memorial has a well-considered, fully explained section on its website promoting social responsibility.

I have no doubt that some of the hospital's board members, executives and staff were surprised to hear about what happened to Bravo. Based on what they know behind the scenes, they likely have their own opinions on whether this was a one-time screw-up or part of a systemic failure. If the legal battle intensifies, we all may find out the answer.

Photo credit: Eve Fouché via Flickr

Comments

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This drop and abandon has become "normal fare" for the developmentally disabled attending "adult day programs"....Here is a url to a photo on facebook showing an injury that occurred as a result: nobody claims any knowledge or responsibility. https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-snc6/262010_217149584269...

Likewise, my sister has been left strapped into a walking frame at staff shift change...and left that way for well over a half hour; she had fallen asleep in a standing position walking between 2 parallel bars...atrocious neglect of duty. The injury to the leg that you see here also involved damage to her wheelchair--which they quickly replaced with a different model. Because my sister is nonverbal, we are overwrought with the lack of ethics and honesty by direct care givers whose concerns are championing liability by withholding any facts or knowledge: it is so "tolerated" by DSHS, that these abuses are RAMPANT. Even attorneys tell us that we need to mount a class action suite, but DSHS claims client privacy, so we are never able to find each other. Individuals who made some successful settlement with the State refuse to discuss any details: I assume that they signed a gag order from DSHS in order to win a settlement.

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I BEEN VICTIM OF PATIENT DUMPTING IN 2006 IN CALIFORNIA, AND THANKS TO THE RIDICULOUS AMOUNT OF 250,000,00 THERE'S ANY LAWYER WHO WANT SO MUCH TROUBLED KNOWING THAN THE GOVERNMMENT IS PROTECTED WITH THE BADDEST BAD FAITH INSURANCES ALL TIME SEDGWICKCMS

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