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Elected leaders say News 3 video verifies patient dumping in Las Vegas

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Two elected leaders speak out Monday after a News 3 camera rolled on a woman being taken by security from a Las Vegas for-profit hospital last week and left abandoned across the street at UMC, the public hospital owned and operated by Clark County.

"I am completely blown back by what we witnessed, and I think that we're better than that," Clark County Commissioner William McCurdy II said. "We're going to ask for, again, an investigation."

McCurdy is chair of the UMC Board of Trustees. He said the video showing a woman with a walker going across the street with Valley Hospital security before being left lying alone on the sidewalk outside UMC validates a long-standing rumor in the community about patient dumping. That's the practice of hospitals and emergency services inappropriately releasing homeless or indigent patients into the community.

"While we for a long time have only speculated this, now, due to your efforts, we now have proof that it's happening," he said. "This patient is still within UMC care receiving medical treatment because that's what a hospital does -- make sure that its patients are properly treated and discharged with compassion and care. I won't get into the specifics of the patient or what the patient has provided, but what I will tell you is that what we witnessed with our eyes is a reality."

McCurdy plans to write a letter to the Nevada State Department of Health and Human Services as well as The Joint Commission.

"This is against the law, and they know that it's against the law as well," he said. "I am asking for severe penalties to go against Valley Hospital, for what I witnessed says a lack of humanity and a lack of care and, quite frankly, a violation of the law for the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, what it looks like, which was a violation of their duties to provide care."

Valley Hospital Medical Center is a for-profit hospital owned by Universal Health Services and operated by Valley Health System. A spokesperson released a short comment on Friday about what News 3 captured that day.

We have started an immediate internal investigation into what transpired in this video.
Due to patient privacy laws, we are unable to offer further comment.
The security officers, who are employed by a third party, will be immediately counseled.

McCurdy does not accept that response.

"I will not allow for the security company to be scapegoated when, in fact, everyone reasonable would expect that this was not the lone actions of the security company," he said. "It had to come from within, it had to come from a higher-up, and the body language shows me that this is not the first time that it's happening."

News 3 learned the security company is Star Protection Agency. The company did not have a comment on Monday.

Las Vegas City Councilman Brian Knudsen said he was "sickened" after seeing the video.

"The fact that we are at a day in age where there is dumping patients, it breaks my heart that people are in that position, it breaks my heart that there is a culture of complacency that would allow something like that to happen," he said.

Knudsen represents Ward 1, which includes Valley Hospital and UMC in the Las Vegas Medical District.

"I think we need to make sure everybody is aware of what's expected. There are state authorities, there are federal authorities that have regulatory authority over issues like this," he said. "But as the individual who represents the medical district, I'm going to hold every single partner accountable for their actions and make sure they know that we expect the highest of care, the highest love, and compassion for every single person that walks into this community."

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UMC's CEO, Mason Van Houweling, released this statement to News 3 on Friday.

I am disgusted by the actions of Valley Hospital's employees today. Watching the video of Valley Hospital personnel literally drag a patient, who was in their care, off of their campus and onto our campus at UMC is repulsive.
As health care professionals, and as human beings, we have a responsibility to care for everyone in our community, rather than disgustingly dragging them out to the sidewalk as if they are a bag of trash, as those at Valley Hospital did this afternoon.
I have often spoken with the leaders of the for-profit hospitals in town, including the leaders at Valley Health System, about their shameful history of "patient dumping," and, because of the watchful eye of a media team at News 3, we now have this unfortunate proof that "patient dumping" occurs.
Because of the quick action, and compassion, of our team at UMC, this patient is now receiving Nevada's highest level of care.
While I must respect our patient's privacy, I can assure you that this patient will be discharged appropriately. Patients who seek care at UMC, and do not have a home to return to, receive detailed information about area shelters, along with transportation options to arrive at the shelter safely.
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