The lawsuit alleges that mental patients were illegally discharged to unsupervised group homes.
SAN DIEGO — The City of San Diego is proceeding with a lawsuit against Scripps Health, alleging that an elderly mentally ill patient was illegally discharged for financial reasons. CBS 8 is investigating several reports of suspected patient dumping by local hospitals.
The patient identified as JN in court records is in her late 60s. He was admitted to the Behavioral Health Unit at Scripps Mercy Hospital in 2019, according to the lawsuit.
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JN had a history of schizophrenia, depression, hallucinations, overdose, and suicidal behavior, including trying to be run over by a truck and threatening to cut his throat with a knife, the lawsuit alleges.
According to an amended complaint filed in San Diego County Superior Court, doctors wanted JN to be placed under public custody and moved to a locked skilled nursing facility.
Instead, the hospital released him to an independent living group home on 71st Street off Imperial Avenue, according to San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott.
“When hospitals care for patients, they are supposed to ensure that they are discharged in a responsible manner,” Elliot said.
City prosecutors later found the man living a filthy life in a group home, according to court records.
“He was in terrible shape. He had an open wound. He didn’t know where he was. He thought he was in another generation. He was with his girlfriend. He couldn’t tell us much about his situation,” Elliot said.
According to Elliot, JN’s motives for release were two-fold. First, safe and skilled nursing facilities were not available locally, and second, JN’s Medicare had expired.
“First of all, this person should never have been placed in an independent living facility. I did,” Elliott said.
Last week, a judge ruled in a city lawsuit alleging elder abuse and unfair business practices could move forward.
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In court documents, lawyers for Scripps Health say that JN or his public guardian never opposed his release.
“(A) A patient has no right to continue treatment with a particular provider, and “a physician may decline without cause so long as fair notice is given.””
“Furthermore, there is no allegation that either JN or the (Public Protection Service) did not consent to JN’s discharge, and consent is a complete barrier to allegations of negligence,” the court filing continued.
In a statement to CBS 8, a Scripps Health spokesperson said, “Discharging patients early because their insurance has expired is inconsistent with what we do and what we believe. I am writing.
With support from the County of San Diego, JN now lives in a safe and skilled nursing facility near San Bernardino, Elliot said.
“We are seeking an order from the courts to determine that the conduct we are complaining about is not up to standard. It is not in compliance with the law,” Elliot said.
A bench trial of the case is scheduled for May 12, 2023 before Judge Timothy Taylor.
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