Hospital Industry Response to L.A. City Attorney’s Hospital Homeless Investigation
Though it is the association’s policy not to comment on criminal investigations, “we are dismayed by the City Attorney’s decision to use his prosecutorial authority against hospitals to address the problem of homelessness,” said Jim Lott, Executive Vice President. “It seems to be a rather excessive, pernicious approach to solving a problem that hospitals have agreed needs to be addressed and are addressing,” Lott continued.
Though no statistics are kept on the numbers of homeless treated by hospitals, 76 hospitals with emergency rooms are the medical safety net for the estimated 80,000 homeless residing in the county, including the almost 1,200 who congregate on the streets of Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. In fact, these hospitals are required by law to receive, treat and stabilize any of the County’s almost 3 million uninsured residents who present with life-threatening illnesses or injuries, and they meet this obligation at a collective financial loss of approximately $1.6 billion annually.
On behalf of hospitals serving communities throughout Los Angeles County, the Hospital Association of Southern California is working with non-profit organizations, the L.A. County Health Department and homeless service agencies to address the issues the City Attorney raised last November with regard to homeless patients being sent to Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles after being treated by hospitals. The association is very close to completing plans that would:
— Allow the Volunteers of America to pick up homeless patients no longer needing hospital care and transport them to homeless service providers.
— Increase the number of beds now available in the County to transition homeless patients no longer needing hospital care from a meager 40 to 95.
— Establish a standardized service referral process and training program for all hospital workers involved in planning the post-hospital care for homeless patients.
“We need our government officials help with this, not their vilification,” Lott said. “No reasonable or thinking individual wants hospitals to house the homeless when they no longer need medical care at $1,286 per day in a hospital bed.”