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ACLU: Paraplegic dumped w/o wheelchair

January 17, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in a patient dumping case. The lawsuit says the paraplegic man was left on Skid Row without his wheelchair.Paralyzed from the waist down and mentally ill, Gabino Olvera cannot fight for himself. So civil rights attorneys are doing it for him, and have filed a lawsuit against Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center after failing to reach a settlement in an alleged case of patient dumping.

"This is hands down the most callous and obscene example of homeless patient dumping that we've seen," said Hernan Vera of Public Counsel.

Olvera was transported by the hospital's van service to Skid Row without a wheelchair or a walker. The complaint describes how Olvera scuttled from the van to the street on his hands, a colostomy bag leaking urine, and a bag of belongings clenched in his teeth.

The complaint says that after Olvera was rushed to another hospital, staff immediately found medical problems that Hollywood Presbyterian overlooked.

"They rushed through the treatment for Mr. Olvera so quickly didn't diagnose or treat at all his existing urinary tract infection, for one," said Vera. "They didn't diagnose or treat his mental illness, even though he had been exhibiting signs."

The city attorney has filed a civil suit against the hospital. The district attorney is weighing criminal prosecution. Area hospitals at the time had agreed to protocols that halt patient dumping. Yet the practice persisted.

Before Olvera, there was 62-year-old Carolyn Reyes with dementia, sent to Skid Row in her hospital gown by a cab from Kaiser Permanente. That incident resulted in charges against Kaiser and a series of reforms, including a court-appointed monitor.

An attorney for Hollywood Presbyterian tells Eyewitness News that they have instituted all the same changes as Kaiser. But the city attorney disputes that, saying there are issues still in contention.

Attorneys for the ACLU, Public Counsel, and a law firm working pro bono say there is no legal assurance that what Hollywood Presbyterian did to Olvera last year could not happen again.


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