Over the past year, Nevada medical facilities have been accused of violating federal standards relating to patient discharge policies, resulting in thousands of improper discharges of patients still in need of medical treatment and with no provisions for post-discharge medical care. The practice has been dubbed “patient dumping,” and has occurred at an alarming frequency.
According to a news release from the City of San Francisco, the issue first came to light in March 2013, after 48-year-old James Brown became a victim of patient dumping. Brown, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety, had been a patient at the state-run Rawson-Neal Hospital in Las Vegas. Rawson-Neal discharged Brown from the hospital, put him in a taxi to a Greyhound bus station, and sent him on a 15-hour ride to Sacramento, California with snacks and a three-day supply of medication. Brown had never been to Sacramento, and had no friends or family in the area. Neither Brown nor Rawson-Neal had made any prior arrangements for Brown relative to his care, housing, or medical treatment once he arrived in the city. Rawson-Neal merely advised him to call 911 upon his arrival.
Brown’s story raised concerns that Rawson-Neal may have bused more than 1,500 psychiatric patients to locations throughout the country. Some of those patients had been bused to San Francisco, prompting the city to file a lawsuit against Nevada last September for improperly and unsafely discharging and busing patients to San Francisco. The incident also prompted federal investigation into Rawson-Neal’s compliance with legal and medical standards regarding patient care and discharge.
According to an investigation report from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, the psychiatrist who discharged Brown acknowledged that he knew Brown had no connections in Sacramento, that he should have given Brown referrals for follow-up treatment and care, and that he was unfamiliar with the discharge policy of Rawson-Neal. The report also revealed that, around the same time, another patient who was diabetic and suffered from mental illness was discharged from Rawson-Neal and bused to Oklahoma. Rawson-Neal discharged that patient without medication and without the means by which to monitor her blood sugar. The patient was, however, given Ensure for the bus ride, which the report suggests is inappropriate for a diabetic.
Since Brown’s experience, similar allegations against Nevada medical facilities have surfaced. According to a recent article from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Sean Szymborski, a 21-year-old who is bipolar and suffers from acute psychosis, was a victim of patient dumping last year, when the Spring Mountain Treatment Center in Las Vegas discharged him and put him in a taxi to his father’s home. Szymborski’s father was not informed that Szymborski was coming. After arriving, and while under the influence of anti-psychotic medication, Syzmborski caused nearly $5,000 in property damage to his father’s house. Syzmborski’s father believes that the incident occurred because his son was medicated and was not ready to be discharged from Spring Mountain.
While investigating Syzmborski’s discharge from Spring Mountain, the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health found that the facility was out of compliance with state regulations on discharge planning. It also found that in at least one other case, Spring Mountain’s patient records lacked any evidence that a social worker and case manager had notified the patient’s family of the patient’s discharge or information necessary to prepare them for the patient’s post-discharge care.
The same article reports that local homeless shelters have received many discharged patients from area hospitals, usually dropped off in taxis, and sometimes still dressed in hospital gowns. Many of those discharged patients not only suffer from mental health issues, but also physical ailments, suggesting their discharge from medical care was premature and improper.
The consequences of “patient dumping” are widespread. According to the San Francisco City Attorney, the practice “cruelly victimizes a defenseless population,” and, by busing such patients out of state, it “punishes jurisdictions for providing health and human services that others won’t provide.” As in the case of Syzmborski’s discharge, the practice also burdens the families of discharged patients, who may not have the means or the knowledge about how to provide for the discharged patient’s medical care.
If you or a loved one have been a victim of negligent discharge from a hospital or other medical facility, contact a medical malpractice attorney at Lagomarsino Law for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights.
Lagomarsino Law was not involved in the representation of any party discussed in this post.