Dumped On Skid Row

Anderson Cooper Reports On The Practice Known As "Hospital Dumping"

Egurbide is part of a city effort to clean up Skid Row. Asked what the problems are that people there are dealing with, Egurbide says, "The people living on the street here, Anderson, about over 40 percent of them have mental illness issues. And, you know, over 50 percent of them have some type of addiction. … Heroin, crack, meth."

Spend a few hours there, like 60 Minutes did, and you quickly see how chaotic these streets are. Despite a heavy law enforcement presence, police wage a constant battle to maintain some semblance of order.

During 60 Minutes´ visit to just one block of Skid Row, one man passed out. No one knew whether he had hit his head, overdosed on drugs, or had some illness. So, They called an ambulance for him. Meanwhile, the police officer on the scene had to leave because there was a stabbing a short time ago on the block, and he believes that the suspect in the stabbing was standing about 100 or 200 feet away from where Cooper and the 60 Minutes team were standing at the time.

Violence is nothing new to those living on Skid Row, and neither are stories about hospital dumping.

"Have you heard about this dumping?" Cooper asked one man.

"Oh hell, yeah. It's nothing new," the man replied. "It just got noticed because they been bringing 'em down in their hospital gowns."

Homeless people, however, don't make the strongest witnesses in court. So to get hard evidence of dumping workers at several shelters, including the Union Rescue Mission, installed special cameras on the street to try to capture it. They called them "dumping cams."

"This was not to stop crime, this, it was intentionally set up to spot hospital drop-offs, or to track hospital drop-offs," Rev. Bales explains.

What's the importance of the cameras?

Says Bales, "You know, people have talked about this has been happening for over 20 years. But it wasn't until America saw a hospital drop-off on camera that it brought the kind of attention that it has brought."

After the video of Reyes' dumping was made public, Diana Bonta, a Kaiser vice president, showed up at a Skid Row press conference.

"I want to apologize to this patient. I want to sincerely apologize. I want to apologize as well to the community. I want to apologize to my colleagues, to those of you gathered here today. It is not in keeping with the policies of Kaiser Permanente," she said.

Kaiser officials acknowledged arrangements should have been made to care for Reyes at a mission. They declined 60 Minutes' request for an interview but said in a statement that from now on, they'll use vans with hospital staff, instead of taxis, to deliver discharged patients to missions.

"It wouldn't have mattered if they put Carol Ann Reyes in a limousine. They still dumped her on Skid Row," argues City Attorney Delgadillo.

This past November, Delgadillo filed civil and criminal charges against Kaiser hospital. "The complaint charges Kaiser with false imprisonment, and dependant adult endangerment relating to Kaiser's shameful and abusive conduct in the dumping of Carol Ann Reyes on Skid Row," he said during a press conference.

You might think with all the attention the Reyes case got, that hospitals would be particularly careful in how they discharge homeless patients. But just a few months later, another hospital's treatment of another patient made headlines.

Gabino Olvera is a 41-year-old paraplegic. He lives in his car, which is equipped with hand controls. He keeps his wheelchair on the seat. Olvera got into a minor traffic accident on February 7, and was brought to Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital and treated for bruises.

Hospital officials say he was discharged in the middle of the night and taken by ambulance to an address Olvera told them was his home. That address turned out to be the Midnight Mission, one of the oldest on Skid Row. The mission's dumping camera showed paramedics bringing Olvera, strapped to a gurney, inside. Staff there said they couldn't care for a paraplegic, so paramedics wheeled him back to the ambulance and took him back to Hollywood Presbyterian.

And that's when Olvera's troubles really began: the hospital acknowledged he sat in the waiting room for eight hours. When the morning shift took over, he was put in a van and sent right back to the same Skid Row address. He never made it that far – four blocks away from the Midnight Mission, he was dumped in the street.

Deputy City Attorney Egurbide arrived with police minutes later. "The witnesses were saying a van pulled up, the individual, you know, basically fell out of it and, while the drivers was just standing by and, you know, not doing anything to help him. And, you know, was literally crawling on his hands. A paraplegic man. No use of his legs. And the van just sped off," Egurbide explains. "No wheelchair, no walker, and no empathy whatsoever for this individual by the driver, apparently."

"That was the wrong thing to do, obviously," says Kaylor Shemberger, the head of Hollywood Presbyterian.