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CLEVELAND – An exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation uncovers northeast Ohio nursing home and hospitals illegally discharging patients.

We found discharge issues top the list of complaints to the Ohio Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman. The office received 1069 complaints related to discharge issues in fiscal year 2011.

“It’s hard to say why people don’t provide good care. There are a lot of facilities that try really hard and do the right thing, but there are certainly some that don’t,” said Susan Griffin, one of 12 regional Ohio long-term care ombudsmen.

Griffin said many complaints involve patients being discharged for lack of payment or behavioral issues. She said others complaints are more serious.

For example, patients without family or friends to care for them can be sent to a homeless shelter after they are discharged.

“That’s not an appropriate discharge plan,” Griffin said.

State and federal laws say nursing homes and hospitals are obligated to care for patients as long as they need medical attention and must ensure patients will receive adequate medical care after they are discharged.

NewsChannel5 investigators found eight northeast Ohio shelters who say nursing home and hospitals have left seriously ill patients at their door within the last few years.

A patient died of a heart attack after being left at Project Hope from the Homeless in Lake County in 2010.

Judy Burr, the homeless shelter’s director, said her staff had informed the nursing home they would not be able to care for the patient.

“It’s not easy when you lose a life, especially when it’s due to something that could have been prevented,” she said.

“I know about a year ago, we had a hospital van pull up and had a guy dropped off here and he was still in his hospital gown,” said Michael Sering, the director of 2100 Lakeside Men’s Shelter in Cleveland.

It is the state’s largest shelter. Sering said about 50 seriously ill patients are dropped off at their shelter each year.

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