Southern California

Dementia Patient Discharged in Taxi, Left Outside, Complaint Alleges

What to Know

  • An elderly woman with dementia was dropped off outside her residence at a memory-care facility in the middle of the night, a complaint says.
  • The woman's daughter, Costanza Genoese Zerbi, filed the complaint.
  • Security video shows 84-year-old Savina Genoese Zerbi attempting to open the front door to the Regency Palms care home at 2:17 a.m. Jan. 13.

A complaint against a Southern California hospital claims an elderly woman with dementia was placed in a taxi after treatment and dropped off outside her residence at a memory-care facility in the middle of the night.

The woman's daughter, Costanza Genoese Zerbi, filed the complaint with the California Department of Public Health against College Medical Center of Long Beach.

"I was very angry," Zerbi told NBC4. "I would be angry no matter who it was. It was heartbreaking," her daughter said. "Alzheimer's for my mom is like being lost in quicksand."

She says her mother had to be rushed to College Medical Center to be evaluated. She was alerted in the middle of the night that her mom was going to be released and says the hospital said they would set up the transfer to the care facility.

But Constanza Zerbi later found out her mother was dropped off on the curb at 2 a.m. and she says no one inside was aware she would be arriving.

Her mother wandered in the back alley and paced outside for about 30 minutes.

"She needed to be transported in an ambulance," Costanza Zerbi said. "She was not emotionally stable. If she had reached around and grabbed the steering wheel is that a safe situation?

The hospital said in a statement that the patient denied their services and wanted to take public transportation.

Constanza Zerbi says the hospital was aware that her mother has dementia and cannot make decisions for herself.

Constanza Zerbi hopes no one ever has to experience this again.

"It's not because it's my mom," she said. "It's because it's a human being who is pulled out of their element, put in danger and is probably very scared."

William Young, a geriatric consultant hired by the daughter, said he tried unsuccessfully to reach the clinician by phone after midnight to determine how the woman would be transported to Regency Palms and when she would arrive.

Young went to bed about 2 a.m. and learned six hours later from a Regency Palms employee that a taxi had dropped the woman off outside of the locked facility.

State health officials on Tuesday issued a statement about the complaint process.

"The California Department of Public Health investigates all complaints or facility-reported incidents which may violate any state law or regulation within CDPH's authority to enforce," the agency said. "Details about any potential pending or ongoing investigation are kept confidential until the investigation is complete and findings are issued to the facility. There is currently an ongoing investigation at this facility."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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