When L.A. City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo recently announced he was filing suit against Kaiser Permanente because its Bellflower hospital allegedly dumped a homeless woman in Skid Row, he and the lawsuit got plenty of favorable attention.

Trouble is, his lawsuit could end up doing more harm to the homeless.

That's because he's just given hospitals an incentive to dump homeless patients on the sidewalk in front of the hospital.

Think about it. If you ran a hospital, what would you do when you're finished treating a homeless person? By definition, the homeless don't have a home to send them to, so you could either show them the front door or you could transport them to Skid Row.
Neither choice is a good one.

But at least the Skid Row option seems far more humane.

Some three dozen agencies in that concentrated zone serve the homeless. Presumably, that would be the best place for a homeless person just dismissed from an emergency room to get a bed, a meal and some attention.

But sending homeless people to Skid Row just got far more perilous, thanks to the lawsuit.

If you're a hospital administrator who gets caught sending a homeless person to the one place he's most likely to get help, you might not only get sued but you'll probably be excoriated in the press as a "homeless dumper."

So, you're more likely now to escort them to the door, pat them on the back and send them out with your good wishes.

Once outside the hospital, the homeless person, who may still be sick or injured, may have no place to go and no way to get there, and perhaps would curl up on the sidewalk or in the bushes.

That's why the lawsuit like many lawsuits, I might add may do more harm than good.

Better case
In the case at hand, a video recording shows that a taxicab last March apparently dropped off a woman named Carol Reyes on the street near the Union Rescue Mission, Skid Row's largest mission. Wearing what appeared to be a hospital gown and slippers, she wandered for a few minutes until a mission worker went out and brought her in. She was disoriented, but reportedly she had been dismissed by the hospital in Bellflower.

At first blush, it seems the better case is against the taxi driver, not the hospital. If the hospital paid the taxi driver to deliver her to the mission, it was the driver who failed to complete the journey by not escorting her the final 10 steps or so into the mission.

This is not to exonerate the hospital. Given what we've been told about the situation, it clearly erred. It should have done a much better job of coordinating the woman's hand-off to the mission, not to mention putting the woman in appropriate dress.

But the irony is that hospitals and homeless service providers have been working on a system to do just that.

As you can read in the opinion pieces on the opposite page, hospitals and missions have come up with plans to improve such transfers.

Let's hope another lawsuit or grandstand press conference doesn't scuttle that effort.

Charles Crumpley is the editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at ccrumpley@labusinessjournal.com .

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