Homeless dumping or patient dumping is the practice of hospitals or emergency services releasing homeless patients on the streets instead of placing them with a homeless shelter or retaining them, especially when they may require expensive medical care with minimal government reimbursement from Medicaid or Medicare. Many homeless people who have mental health problems can no longer find a place in a psychiatric hospital since the trend towards mental health deinstitutionalization from the 1960s onwards.
The term "patient dumping" was first mentioned in the New York Times in articles published in the late 1870s describing the practice of private New York hospitals transporting poor and sickly patients by horse drawn ambulance to Bellevue Hospital, the city's preeminent public facility. The jarring ride and lack of stabilized care typically resulted in death of the patient and outrage of the public. Notwithstanding the passage of city ordinances prohibiting the practice it continued.
"Patient dumping" resurfaced in the 1980s, nationwide, with private hospitals refusing to examine or treat the poor and uninsured in the emergency departments (ED) and transferring them to public hospitals for further care and treatment. This refusal of care resulted in patient deaths and public outcry culminating with the passage of a federal anti-patient dumping law in 1986 known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act.
- Associated Press; February 9, 2007; Los Angeles. A hospital van dropped off a homeless paraplegic man on Skid Row and left him crawling in the street with nothing more than a soiled gown and a broken colostomy bag, police said.... Police said the incident was a case of "homeless dumping" and were questioning officials from the hospital.
- Associated Press, October 25, 2006; Los Angeles. "L.A. Police Allege Homeless Dumping." Authorities have launched a criminal investigation into suspected dumping of homeless people on Skid Row after police witnessed ambulances leaving five people on a street there during the weekend.
- "Dumped On Skid Row". 60 Minutes. May 17, 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-21.
- "L.A. charges hospital in dumping of homeless". MSNBC. November 16, 2006. Retrieved 2007-05-21.
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- Police probe alleged L.A. homeless dumping: Hospital van reportedly spotted dropping off paraplegic man on Skid Row, MSNBC via Associated Press, February 9, 2007