San Diego hospitals accused of patient dumping

Members of a homeless advocate group are accusing hospitals across San Diego of prematurely discharging homeless or indigent patients — a practice known as patient dumping, according to local news outlets. 

On March 22, an advocacy group called Housing 4 the Homeless held a press conference outside of Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, claiming the city's hospitals continue to inappropriately discharge homeless patients, despite a California law — SB 1152 — that requires hospitals to have a homeless discharge policy in place. 

"This bill that went into effect in January 2019 was meant to stop patient dumping — the practice of hospitals inappropriately releasing homeless or indigent patients to the streets without proper screening or stabilizing treatment — often adequately clothed without safe transport or a realistic plan for self care," Vanessa Davis, a member of Housing 4 the Homeless, said during the press conference, according to a report from KPBS. "Unfortunately, this is still happening today." 

Members of the group are asking state lawmakers for hearings to be held and to review the law's effectiveness. However, a lack of resources in the area presents a challenge for hospials, with an October analysis of shelter referrals from the Voice of San Diego showing the city does not have enough shelter beds for the homeless population. 

At the press conference, Scripps Mercy Hospital was among those accused of illegal patient dumping. In a statement to local news outlets, the San Diego-based system said it "complies with all provisions of SB 1152," noting that Scripps Mercy Hospital had more than 10,500 homeless patient visits last year. 

In a statement to NBC 7 San Diego, Scripps Health, in part, said

"We ensure all patients are safe to leave the hospital before being discharged. We work with each patient to develop a discharge plan, which includes giving them discharge instructions, follow-up for medical or behavioral healthcare needs they may have and providing them with information about community resources so they can access food, clothing, shelter and transportation to their chosen destination, as applicable. Hospitals cannot directly secure homeless shelter beds for patients." 

Scripps Health also said patients are involved in discharge coordination and have a "right to self-determination and can accept or decline" resources that are offered, and that vulnerable patients are held until the morning if they are willing to stay if their treatment is completed late at night. 

Several other systems that operate in the area, including Sharp Healthcare and Kaiser Permanente, reiterated those messages in statements to the news outlet. 

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