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How to resolve 'patient dumping'

February 25, 2007

Re "Law would bar dumping patients on the street," Feb. 22

Making "patient dumping" unlawful is not the answer. Hospitals will then let the homeless still in need of medical care just walk out, forgoing the free ride to skid row.

But the answer is not complex at all:

* There are more than 90,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County every night, yet there is only one recuperative care (post-hospitalization) facility for the homeless consisting of 45 beds, run by the JWCH Institute clinic on skid row. Thus, provide more recuperative-care facilities.

* Studies show that counties pay up to $100,000 per homeless person in emergency room and legal costs a year, whereas providing housing costs about $6,000 a year. Thus, provide more housing for the homeless.

* Research assures us that access to primary care for people with chronic conditions saves millions of dollars by preventing catastrophic and costly consequences as a result of lack of care. Thus, provide access to quality healthcare to everyone.

* One-third of the nation's homeless are mentally ill, yet assisted living for the mentally ill is practically nonexistent. Thus, provide comprehensive resources to care for the mentally ill.

SUSAN PARTOVI MD

Santa Monica

The writer is the medical director for Homeless Health Care Los Angeles, a staff physician at the Venice Family Clinic and an assistant professor at the UCLA School of Medicine.

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