Hospital van driver dumps paraplegic man in LA’s sidewalk

Police said a man, who was dragging a broken colostomy bag behind him, was dumped on the sidewalk in one of the worst parts of the city by the driver of a hospital van.

The area is the same location where city officials say hospitals have dumped the homeless before. But, even on Skid Row, it was shocking: a paraplegic man in a soiled gown sliding along the sidewalk with his hands, clutching a plastic bag with his belongings between his teeth.

Witnesses, all homeless people, began shouting, "Where is his wheelchair? Where is his walker?" Detective Russ Long said Friday. They told officers the driver responded that the man defecated in the van and had to be removed.

"If there is an explanation it just eludes me at this point," Long said.

"He was sliding along on his bottom using his hands. He had a hospital property bag in his mouth, in his teeth, and he was trailing a colostomy bag, which was malfunctioning."

Witnesses told police a van from Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center pulled up to a tiny park in the grimy area near downtown at 10:45 a.m. Thursday, a side door opened and a man, dressed in a green hospital gown and pants, began struggling to get out. The driver looked on.

"His pants fell around his ankles. He fell onto the curb with his legs dangling onto the street," Long said. "He reached down and grabbed his pants, pulled his legs onto the sidewalk. Witnesses said the van would have run over his legs if he hadn't have done that."

Homeless people in the area helped the disoriented man into the park. A police bicycle patrol arrived by chance within a minute and called an ambulance.

The 41-year-old man's name was not released, but he was wearing a bracelet from the hospital, Long said.

Dan Springer, a spokesman for the medical center, said an internal investigation was under way and pledged cooperation with any outside investigation.

"These are very serious allegations. Our goal is to get to the bottom of exactly what happened. If we determine a mistake of this magnitude was made, we will respond swiftly and appropriately," Springer said.

Springer said the man was released on Wednesday night. He asked to be taken to a Skid Row mission and was transported by a company contracted by Hollywood Presbyterian, Springer said. The mission had no vacancies and the man was taken back to the hospital, where he spent the night in the lobby of the emergency room.

The next day, he asked to return to Skid Row and "instructed the driver to open the door and let him out at a local park in the vicinity of Midnight Mission," Springer said.

"He assured the driver the mission was his home and could propel himself home from the park," Springer said. "The driver opened the door, he propelled and waved the driver away, and the driver left the area."

The man was ultimately taken to another hospital. Police did not disclose his condition.

The case comes three months after the city attorney's office filed its first indictment alleging homeless dumping, against Kaiser Permanente Hospital. In that case, a 63-year-old patient from the hospital's Bellflower medical center was videotaped wandering the streets of Skid Row in a hospital gown and socks.

Kaiser has said it has taken steps to see that no more of its patients are left on Skid Row.

City officials have accused more than a dozen hospitals of dumping patients and criminals on Skid Row. Hospital officials have denied the allegations, but some said they had taken homeless patients to Skid Row service providers.

In 2005, Hollywood Presbyterian was accused of homeless dumping. At the time, a top executive denied the charge, but said Skid Row service providers offered treatment and care for some patients who had nowhere else to go, the AP says.

A recent crackdown on crime around Skid Row has resulted in a migration of homeless people out of downtown, significantly reducing the area's transient population but also putting a strain on homeless service providers elsewhere.

Last month, 875 people were living on the streets surrounding Skid Row, according to a Police Department count. That compares to 1,345 people at about the same time last year.

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