Friday, February 23, 2007

You Wanted Angry...

I hope all of you are as pissed off by this:

... a paraplegic man in a soiled gown sliding along the sidewalk with his hands, clutching a plastic bag with his belongings between his teeth.

Police said the man, who was dragging a broken colostomy bag behind him, was dumped on the sidewalk Thursday in one of the worst parts of the city by the driver of a hospital van. The area is the same location where city officials say hospitals have dumped the homeless before.
And what was the name of the hospital who dumped him? Hollywood Presbyterian. From the hospitals web site:

The hospital is committed to serving local multicultural communities with expert medical and nursing care. With over 500 physicians representing virtually every specialty, CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center is ready to serve your medical needs and those of your loved ones and strives to distinguish itself as a leading health care provider, recognized for providing quality, innovative care in a compassionate manner.
I think something went badly, badly awry, don't you? A hospital spokesperson is quoted as saying:

"These are very serious allegations. Our goal is to get to the bottom of exactly what happened. If we determine a mistake of this magnitude was made, we will respond swiftly and appropriately," Springer said.
I'd say that's a bit of an understatement. How about "We're sorry!" How about an "Oops!" How does one exactly determine the "magnitude of the mistake"? By saying, "Oh, wait! We rented that van, so we aren't entirely responsible..." or "They wrote the wrong thing on his chart--the "they" that don't work here, so we aren't that culpable for the situation..."


Of course, this isn't the first hospital in the area to be dumping their patients; apparently it's been going on for years! And these people are in the business of "caring for others"? WTF?!?!?!?

Of course, the irony is not lost on me that this was a Christian-affiliated hospital... I guess when you're so concerned with money and eternal souls, a man without legs seems almost blase...

Witnesses, all homeless people, began shouting, "Where is his wheelchair? Where is his walker?" Detective Russ Long said Friday. They told officers the driver responded that the man defecated in the van and had to be removed.

"If there is an explanation it just eludes me at this point," Long said.

"He was sliding along on his bottom using his hands. He had a hospital property bag in his mouth, in his teeth, and he was trailing a colostomy bag, which was malfunctioning."

Witnesses told police a van from Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center pulled up to a tiny park in the grimy area near downtown at 10:45 a.m. Thursday, a side door opened and a man, dressed in a green hospital gown and pants, began struggling to get out. The driver looked on.

"His pants fell around his ankles. He fell onto the curb with his legs dangling onto the street," Long said. "He reached down and grabbed his pants, pulled his legs onto the sidewalk. Witnesses said the van would have run over his legs if he hadn't have done that."

The 41-year-old man's name was not released, but he was wearing a bracelet from the hospital, Long said.
But, you know, this needs "investigated." The fact that the van, the hospital ID, and the bag the man had to clench between his teeth were all from the hospital leaves a lot of unanswered questions about where the man could have come from, right?

When we normally talk about the health-care crisis in this country, we focus on the insurance companies, the cost of prescriptions--you know, bureaucratic-type issues. What about real-time care and concern! Doctors take an oath, part of which states:

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
And the hospital itself has this as its mission statement on its web site:

Quality Care with Compassion and Respect.

CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center is a primary care community hospital serving the health care needs of all members of the population within its service area. HPMC strives to distinguish itself as a community health care provider, recognized for providing quality, innovative care in a compassionate manner.
So what happened? What went wrong? Why was a man who can't walk left on the sidewalk in the middle of the night on Skid Row?


The most recent study I could find on patient dumping was from 2001 (PDF format), and the statistics are scary:
  1. Violations were confirmed for 527 hospitals in 46 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin). These confirmed violations have not appeared in our previous reports.
  2. 72.5% of hospitals violating the Act were not-for-profit hospitals (382 hospitals out of 527). 19.7 % were for-profit hospitals (104 out of 527). The profit status of 41 hospitals (8%) was unknown.
  3. A patient’s insurance status influences hospital compliance with the Act. Some insurers, such as HMOs require pre-authorization for examination or treatment or deny reimbursement when an exam rules out the presence of an emergency condition. Hospitals often must choose between providing services without reimbursement or violating EMTALA.
We spend more money than any other country in the world on medicine and medical procedures--and we can't take care of one paraplegic...

How tragically, utterly sad...


Danny Vice said...

The last time I was unfortunate enough to require hospital care, I stayed for a few hours and the hospital ran some routine tests. The bill ran into the thousands although the tests conducted were simple $75 clinical sample tests.

Private hospitals thrive on massive revenue, city subsidies and tax advantages. How often after all do you see a hospital having a "going out of business" sale? What would a used bed pad be worth anyway?

Hospitals who thrive on it's monopoly of the sick while receiving perks and incentives from public sources should be banned from releasing a patient into a potentially harmful environment that's incompatible with his/her ailments.

The fact that the hospital should be sued in order to compel the hospital into civilized health practices is an outrage. Our government has seen fit to regulate everything else in hospital operations, yet the user of those operations is beholden to the hospitals option of securing their welfare?

Perhaps a private hospital can't be forced to provide treatment, but it should certainly be required to insure that it doesn't release patients into an environment that is likely to make the condition(s) worse.

If it's true that the hospital made a commitment to change their practice and still has not, then I would expect (and hope) that the hospital will be sued senseless to established a precedent in this case that equals the apathy it has shown towards it's customers (patients). We'll be watching this case to see what the legal outcome is.

Those who paint the issue as a Religious issue (as the name Presbyterian means nothing - its private business).... or a political issue....the hospital is likely staffed with people from both political pursuations... aren't doing the issue any favors whatsoever.

Osolating people, by branding whole classes of people who aren't involved in what the hospital did is negligent and discourages valuable support from these groups.

If we accuse Dems of purpetuating this act, we basically drive them away from the issue... if we do the same with republicans - we drive them away... This issue needs MAXIMUM support from everyone who is receptive to caring. Those who want to play games with the story, only end up hurting the cause in the end.

Focus on the hospital. It's their failed policy and careless apathy that lead to the dumping of this man... and the more folks who speak out on it, the better!

Danny Vice
The Weekly Vice

Jason Hughes said...

While I can appreciate most of what you said, I don't necessarily see how I painted this as a "Dem" or a "Repub" issue or problem--unless that was just a statement of part of the greater issue you observe in general and not a comment directly about the post itself...

I have to say: whether private or public, hospitals should fulfill the duty they exist for: to heal. It's what the Hippocratic Oath is all about! It's even in the hospital's so-called mission statement" as stated above! Healing shouldn't depend on money (although it is one unfortunate aspect), and although I'm sure "universal" or "social" health care in the U.S. wouldn't fix every problem, it would be a step in the right direction.

Thanks for your comment, and for stopping by...