This photograph was taken by the Los Angeles police department on October 22, 2006, and shows an ambulance crew taking a patient to a homeless shelter in Skid Row.

Hospitals, beware, if you’re caught discharging homeless patients to the streets, you could end up in court. The Associated Press reports that a Los Angeles hospital accused of dumping patients in Skid Row is facing criminal charges. The investigation started last March when a 63-year-old woman was discharged from Kaiser Permanente’s Bellflower hospital and was found wandering the streets of Skid Row wearing a hospital gown and slippers. The hospital is being accused of false imprisonment and dependent-care abuse charges. The city is also suing Kaiser under a state law of unfair business practices.

At first, Kaiser defended their practice, noting that there are social service agencies located in Skid Row that can help patients get back on their feet. Then, after a lot of bad publicity, they apologized. Hospital workers can no longer sneak patients into Skid Row. They have to call Skid Row service providers first before they dump patients off at the provider’s doorstep.

We do not live in a perfect world. As a nurse, I believe it’s wrong to discharge patients to the streets, but as someone who recognizes the economic realities of running a business, and make no mistake, health care is a business, I understand why patients are being kicked to the curb. There are no easy answers, and I think things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.