Patient Dumping Can Be Deadly, So Why Are So Many Las Vegas Hospitals Doing It?

Patient Dumping Can Be Deadly, So Why Are So Many Las Vegas Hospitals Doing It?Let’s start with some numbers.

In 2009, the median length of a hospital stay for a hip replacement was 8 days. In 2017-2018, it was an average of 4.23 days. As of January 2023, it typically lasts one day.

Average length of a hospital stay for a C-section in 2023? Two to four days. Open heart surgery? Four to five days. A stroke? Five to seven days.

We point this out because high turnover is common in hospitals. What is less well-known is that many hospitals have policies in place that allow them to discharge patients even when those patients shouldn’t go, don’t have a ride home, and aren’t truly capable of caring for themselves.

News 3 Las Vegas has been reporting on “patient dumping” at Centennial Hills Hospital and recently cited a lawsuit that Claggett & Sykes filed on behalf of the family of Marceil Scott. Mrs. Scott was admitted to Centennial Hills Emergency Room on January 1, 2021; she had fallen at home. She also suffered from dementia. Yet she was discharged around 1:20 a.m. and sent home in a Lyft. The hospital didn’t call her son or her caretaker informed about the discharge. Per News 3:

After getting dropped off, she was unable to get inside because Marceil Scott did not remember her keypad code. She decided to walk to a neighbor’s home for help but tripped and fell. She spent the night in below-freezing temperatures until she was found the next morning by a neighbor. Paramedics were called and she was taken back to the hospital with new injuries and hypothermia according to the lawsuit.

Mrs. Scott eventually succumbed to her injuries; our firm is representing her son and daughter-in-law in a wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital, Envision Healthcare, the ER doctor, and a registered nurse.

How common is “patient dumping” at Las Vegas hospitals?

What happened to Mrs. Scott was tragic, preventable, and we believe, an egregious act of malpractice. It’s called “patient dumping,” the inappropriate (and typically premature) discharge of patients from medical facilities like hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and even nursing homes. (Patient dumping is also used to describe facilities transferring patients to other facilities based on financial or economic reasons.)

It’s also incredibly common. As Jennifer Morales, an attorney with Claggett & Sykes, explained to News 3 Las Vegas, “It’s an uphill trend right now. It could be capacity issues. Other times it’s what type of insurance do they have and what coverages do they have without insurance.” Shirley Blazich, who’s representing the Scott family, told News 3 that these practices and policies are “not limited to any one particular hospital.”

In fact, News 3 found seven “admission, discharge, and transfer rights allegations against Centennial Hills Hospital,” and 13 open discharge complaints against Valley Health System, which operates Centennial Hills. Both are owned by Universal Health Services, a Fortune 500 company operating out of King of Prussia, PA.

It’s not like this is a “new” problem, either. Back in 2018, a lawsuit against the State of Nevada uncovered that at least 1,500 patients of Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital “had been sent to states across the country and to Washington, D.C.” without any type of support; some, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, were sent “without any form of identification or ability to obtain medication” for their illnesses. News 3 also reported that Nevada “has investigated more than a dozen allegations related to violations of a federal anti-dumping law since the start of 2018.”

For the record, it’s not just in Nevada. California, Kentucky, Iowa, New York: you can find stories about patient dumping in every state despite the federal law.

A quick note about rideshare services for discharged patients

Part of the lawsuit we filed on behalf of the Scott family talks about how Mrs. Scott was placed in a Lyft and sent home. Over the past few years, both Lyft and Uber have created divisions of their company that pair with medical facilities. Both companies also tout their data regarding the reduction of “no-shows” for hospital and doctors visits.

But neither Lyft nor Uber is a medical service. Their drivers are not trained EMS or medical providers. They owe no duty of care to ensure that the folks who use their services are actually safe or able to care for themselves once they exit the vehicle. Neither the drivers nor the companies are responsible if a user forgets their keys or leaves something behind.

But that’s not what’s happened to our client, or to patients throughout the country. Hospitals are using these rideshare services to transport patients who should not be discharged at all, let alone without supervision.

Why isn’t anyone stopping the early discharge of patients?

There are myriad reasons why patient dumping and early discharges keep happening; what is harder to understand is why no one is stopping it. The answer may be that for every story that makes it to the public, there are several which do not. As Attorney Morales pointed out to News 3, investigations into early, negligent discharges aren’t being done internally because these hospitals aren’t creating incident reports when it occurs. Without the report, there’s no investigation. And without an investigation, there’s no plan of action to correct the problem.

That’s why holding these hospitals and health care systems – and the Wall Street companies that own them – accountable is so important. Lawsuits like the one Claggett & Sykes has filed play an integral role in getting dangerous policies into the light, which can lead to systemic change. The Scotts live with a heartbreaking loss.. But their refusal to back down and to force these companies to acknowledge their dangerous policies may save other families from the same trauma and grief. We are proud to help them in this fight.

Claggett & Sykes will always stand up for what is right. We are fierce advocates for our clients throughout Nevada. If you or your loved one suffered harm because of an act of medical negligence like patient dumping, let us help. To schedule an appointment, call our Las Vegas or Reno offices or fill out our contact form today.