Hospital holding company pays $125K in dumping case

Four years after Centinela Freeman Regional Medical Center of Inglewood, Calif., allegedly dropped a woman with chronic lung problems at a closed West Los Angeles homeless shelter, the hospital's former owner has agreed to settle a $125,000 patient-dumping lawsuit by the Los Angeles city attorney.

The company, Centinela Freeman Holdings, will pay $5,000 in civil penalties and $120,000 in charitable contributions to a homeless recovery network assisting mentally ill patients. It also has agreed to abide by rules prohibiting such practices at the medical facilities it owns, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Centinela Freeman Holdings also agreed to an injunction that prohibits it from discharging homeless patients to the streets or any shelter within an established "patient safety zone"--a section of downtown and South Los Angeles where many of the area's homeless shelters and missions are concentrated.

The lawsuit is linked to a February 2007 incident in which a Florida woman visiting the area was treated for a chronic lung problem. When she was discharged, she allegedly was sent by taxi to a temporary winter shelter that was not in operation. She was found with her oxygen tank by National Guard members, who contacted law enforcement officials.

In this case, the holding company did not admit wrongdoing, but it has agreed to abide by best practices protocols for discharging homeless patients. The protocols have been signed by other Southern California hospitals, and provide specific requirements for how patients should be released from hospitals and evaluated after their release.

For more details:
- see the Los Angeles Time article
- read the Associated Press story