Skid Row patients scrap

LOS ANGELES - Authorities have launched a criminal investigation into the dumping of homeless people on Skid Row after several ambulances were spotted leaving patients who were recently discharged on the streets at the weekend.

LOS ANGELES - Authorities have launched a criminal investigation into the dumping of homeless people on Skid Row after several ambulances were spotted leaving patients who were recently discharged on the streets at the weekend.

Police videotaped five alleged dumping cases on Sunday in which the patients later said they did not want to be taken downtown.

Authorities were investigating if the patients were falsely imprisoned during their transfer and if the hospital, Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center, violated any laws regarding the treatment of patients.

Hospital officials denied they had improperly handled the patients.

John Fenton, president and chief executive of the hospital, said: "Why would we send someone there who did not ask to go there? It is illogical."

Skid Row has one of the nation's largest concentrations of homeless people, in part because it has a cluster of shelters and services to help them.

Police have long suspected that several institutions were using the downtown neighbourhood as a dumping ground for homeless people.

Captain Andrew Smith of the LAPD said: "This is the most blatant effort yet by a hospital to dump their patients on Skid Row against their will."

The investigation began on Sunday, when an LAPD sergeant saw a patient being left in front of the Volunteers of America homeless facility. Over the next few hours four more ambulances arrived at the facility and left recently discharged patients.

Fenton said three of the five patients gave the street address on their admission information.

Officials at the facility said they had no record of any of the five patients having been there.

James Frailey, an attendant with a private ambulance company, said the hospital hired his company "on a regular basis" to move discharged patients to Skid Row.

No law prevents hospitals from sending patients to Skid Row after they have been discharged.

The city attorney is investigating if hospitals can be sued for unscrupulous behavior. - Sapa

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