Los Angeles’ County District 14 neighborhood — perhaps better known as Skid Row — has one of the highest rates of homelessness across the country, so perhaps it’s not much of a surprise that living conditions here are not conducive to healthy lifestyles. But according to recent findings, the population of homeless L.A. residents in this area may actually be increasing because of something called “patient dumping.”
As Fox News has reported, many hospitals that serve Skid Row neighborhoods have become so overburdened with patients — especially homeless patients who require extensive and expensive treatments — that there have been reports of regional hospitals “dumping” destitute patients without providing adequate treatment.
Urgent care clinics, in recent years, have become very helpful for cities, like L.A., where traditional medical facilities are overburdened. The latest data shows that there are at least 9,300 urgent care clinics across the country, but very few of these clinics have the resources to serve high numbers of uninsured patients.
For a smaller injury or illness, urgent care facilities are much more cost-effective than hospitals.
But when a hospital discharges a patient with a severe illness too early, urgent care facilities are often unable to cover treatment costs — if they even have the supplies to attempt it.
The two urgent care facilities that serve Skid Row’s homeless population know this all too well; the staff at these centers also state that there has been a significant increase in the number of homeless patients they treat.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the homeless population in California is about 22% of the total homeless population in the U.S., and this state is only one of six states where more than 50% of its homeless population is living without shelter. Estimates from the L.A. Homeless Services Authority show that homelessness in Skid Row has increased by 12% within the past two years, meaning that this tiny neighborhood accounts for nearly 25% of the entire city’s homeless population.
Health experts and city authorities appear to be working with area hospitals to address the problem; not only is it unreasonable to expect a hospital to cover the costs of so many emergency room visits, but there just aren’t enough beds in most hospitals to accommodate so many homeless patients with severe illnesses.
Furthermore, it appears that health workers are struggling to ensure that patients don’t discharge themselves before receiving enough treatment (as many patients with mental health concerns often do).
Ultimately, it will take the entire city — from politicians to urgent care clinic nurses — to solve the problem together and ensure that “patient dumping” doesn’t continue.