Hospital Sues Patients for Trespassing
A Catholic hospital system in California is suing several patients and their advocates, accusing them of trespassing under a state law intended to stop anti-abortion protesters from blocking access to health facilities. The lawsuits claim that the patients refused to be discharged from the hospital, disrupting the hospital's ability to serve others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Patients Claim Their Rights to Appropriate Care
Relatives and advocates of the patients argue that they were exercising their right to be discharged to a facility that offered appropriate care and that they could afford. They say the patients should not have been sent home without the ability to take care of themselves.
Precedents for the Use of the Law
The lawsuits could set important precedents for both the use of the California law against patients and their advocates and the handling of cases where hospitals and patients disagree on discharge plans. The state's hospital lobby has highlighted discharge delays as a growing problem, costing the industry billions of dollars each year.
Concerns for Patient Advocates
Patient advocates, who help individuals navigate the healthcare system, are concerned that a decision in favor of the hospital could impact their profession and give hospitals a new avenue to seek money from patients. They argue that hospitals have a duty to discharge patients to a safe facility they can afford.
Disagreements Over Discharge Plans
The patients involved in the lawsuits claim that it was not safe for them to return home and accuse the hospital of delaying paperwork for their Medicaid applications. State and federal laws require hospitals to arrange care for patients who are likely to suffer adverse health consequences upon discharge.
Use of the Commercial Blockade Law
Dignity Health, the hospital system behind the lawsuits, is using a California law originally intended to dissuade anti-abortion protesters from blocking access to healthcare facilities. The law allows civil claims against trespassers at health facilities. Patient advocates are alarmed by the lawsuits, as they have never heard of hospitals filing such claims.
Concerns About Hospital's Motives
Some patient advocates believe that the hospital is trying to put them out of business to reduce pushback against hospital discharges and other decisions. They argue that they play a crucial role in advocating for patients' safety and well-being.
Outcome of the Lawsuits
The outcome of the lawsuits could have significant implications for both patients and patient advocates. Dignity Health has filed three lawsuits, one of which is scheduled to begin trial proceedings soon. The hospital system has not specified the amount of damages it seeks in the lawsuits.
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