In a first for California, an appeals court is publishing an opinion explaining why nursing homes are prohibited from abandoning hospitalized residents.
Federal law has long guaranteed nursing home residents an absolute right to be readmitted from temporary hospitalizations. Unfortunately, neither the federal nor state nursing home enforcement agencies have been interested in punishing facilities that violate that right. Consequently, the practice of hospital dumping has been a growing and vexing problem for residents throughout the state.
In St. John of God v. Department of Health Care Services, the Second District Court of Appeal found the federal law prohibiting hospital dumping to be crystal clear: nursing homes must comply with a number of procedural requirements before permanently discharging a resident. They may not bypass those requirements when a resident is hospitalized. In those cases, the facility must honor the resident’s right to return once the hospital has completed its treatment. No excuses.
The court’s opinion is a major development in the fight against illegal hospital dumping of nursing home residents. However, its greatest value will only be realized by residents fortunate enough to find legal counsel to assert their rights. The other residents must continue to rely on the anemic efforts of the federal and state enforcement agencies. (The State did not even participate in the case despite being the sole defendant. Instead it relied on the evicted resident to defend the case.) Let’s hope the growing momentum against illegal nursing home evictions finally inspires the state to enforce our laws.