Our Stories

Paraplegic Patient "Dumped" Without his Wheelchair

Gabino Olvera is a 43-year-old paraplegic man who was homeless and living in his car. He kept his wheelchair next to him on the seat. After he was injured in an automobile accident, Mr. Olvera was taken to Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital and treated. The same day, the hospital hired a van company to take him to a Skid Row mission, but the mission quickly realized Mr. Olvera's injuries would require ongoing medical attention and instructed the van company to take him back to the hospital.

Mr. Olvera sat in the hospital's waiting room all night long. He had a urinary tract infection and signs of mental illness which were never diagnosed or treated. In the morning, he was whisked back to Skid Row and, literally, abandoned on the street without a wheelchair. Public Counsel and the ACLU were asked to provide him with legal representation and assist with proper discharge planning. Through its community partners, Public Counsel secured a Full Service Partnership under the Mental Health Services Act that provides Mr. Olvera with medical and case management, housing, and financial support.

After repeated attempts to negotiate a meaningful settlement for Mr. Olvera with Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, Public Counsel recruited attorney Steven Archer of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. to represent him pro bono in filing a civil lawsuit. A confidential settlement was soon reached. Additionally, Public Counsel, the ACLU, and Mr. Archer worked with the Hospital to create and implement a comprehensive set of protocols for admitting and discharging homeless patients, particularly those suffering from mental illness. Mr. Olvera is very pleased with the result and proud to have played an important role in helping to end the barbaric practice now known as "hospital dumping."