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Man Dumped on Skid Row by LA Hospital Files Negligence Lawsuit

Jan 18, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP A Los Angeles man, who was allegedly the victim of an outrageous instance medical negligence is suing a Hollywood Hospital.  Gabino Olvera, 42, was dumped in a gutter on Los Angeles’ famed “Skid Row” after being treated by the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center.  In February of 2007, Hollywood Presbyterian discharged Olvera—a mentally ill, paraplegic man—and drove him across town in a van, leaving him in a dirty hospital gown in the middle of an area in LA known for its large homeless population.  Apparently, witnesses who assisted Olvera said they saw him dragging himself on the ground, clenching hospital papers and other documents in his teeth.  Meanwhile, after she left Olvera on the street to struggle, crawling on the ground in a filthy hospital gown, the driver of the van was seen applying make-up as she sat in the van before driving away.  The scene was caught on film by security cameras at a nearby homeless shelter.

Olvera sued the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center for negligence; the lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and seeks unspecified damages.  Hernan Vera, a lawyer with Public Counsel, the organization that helped bring the lawsuit on behalf on Olvera, called it "the most obscene and callous example of this practice that we have seen."  In a statement, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center said it had thoroughly reviewed its patient discharge policies to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.  Hollywood Presbyterian also said that it had held extensive talks with Olvera's lawyers and remained optimistic about reaching a satisfactory out-of-court settlement.

As shocking as the Olvera case was, it sadly was not the only incident of its kind.  Shockingly, Olvera’s situation was only one of at least 50 reported cases in the past 12 months in which sick, confused, and homeless patients were driven by ambulance following discharge and dumped somewhere in the 50-block area of downtown Los Angeles called Skid Row.  It is unknown how many cases of dumping homeless discharged patients actually took place.  Los Angeles’ Skid Row is believed to be home for the highest concentration of homeless in the U.S.  Reported estimates of the number of homeless people in the United States range anywhere from 500,000 to more than one million people.  In Los Angeles’ Skid Row area, an estimated 12,000 people, many of them mentally ill or addicted to drugs and alcohol, live and sleep on the streets.

Regarding the Olvera case and the many cases of its kind, Vera described Los Angeles as "ground zero in the fight against unlawful dumping of homeless patients by hospitals."  Lawyers for Olvera said that one of the goals of the lawsuit was to force local hospitals to change their practices.  In May, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, the country's largest nonprofit health-care provider, settled a lawsuit that also involved the dumping of another patient on the streets following hospital discharge.  In that lawsuit, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals agreed to find shelter locations for all patients it discharges in Los Angeles.  Kaiser also agreed to improve discharge procedures and to contribute $500,000 to homeless services on Skid Row in Los Angeles.

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