A woman in a hospital gown and stockinged feet was discharged from a Baltimore hospital and dumped outside in the cold at a bus shelter. A witness who captured the incident on his cell came to her assistance.
“I saw the unthinkable: another human being in a wheelchair being wheeled out in the dead of cold,” Imamu Baraka, a psychotherapist told Associated Press on Thursday.
The almost six-minute video, which was posted on social media and quickly went viral, opens with Baraka talking to four security guards who are seen pushing an empty wheelchair back toward the University of Maryland Medical Center after leaving a woman at the bus shelter on Wednesday night.
“Wait! So you’re all just gonna leave this lady out here with no clothes on,” Baraka asked the security guards who just mumble in response.
When Baraka persisted with “That is not okay!”
One guard replied “Those are the circumstances of what it was.”
“Then you need to call the police,” retorted Baraka. The security re-enter the hospital as he adds “So you just gonna leave this lady out here like this?”
Baracka explained to reporters he filmed the incident on Tuesday night because he didn’t think anybody would believe him if he reported a woman being left at a bus stop like that.
A Maryland hospital system is investigating after a Facebook video showing a woman standing just outside a hospital wearing just a gown went viral. https://t.co/zrYicLGiyk
— The Baltimore Sun (@baltimoresun) January 11, 2018
Baracka then returns to the woman who is seen standing on the sidewalk in only a hospital gown and stockinged feet, looked dazed and confused, and then moaning in distress. As Baraka encourages her back to the bus shelter she cries in pain several times and then screams as she is sitting down.
In a second video, Baraka is seen on camera with an ambulance pulling off in the distance, which he explains has picked up the woman. She was returned to same hospital which had previously discharged her.
“She is not a patient of mine…but there are clearly some mental health issues going on with this individual,” said Baraka. “The idea that they are discharging her, if she is unruly which is what one of the security guards suggested, that’s reason enough to involuntarily commit her to the psych ward at the hospital until they are clear what is happening.”
“You can’t expect those with mental health issues to be pleasant because they are ill. I am wondering what is going to happen here and I am disgusted at the lack of empathy being displayed here.”
The University of Maryland Medical Center has fought back against the criticism that the woman was denied care because she was unable to pay.
“We believe when the patient was in our ER, the patient’s healthcare needs were addressed appropriately,” University of Maryland Medical Center President Dr. Mohan Suntha, said at a press conference Thursday afternoon. He admitted though that the hospital had “failed,” and there were no excuses for what happened to the woman.
Federal law forbids “patient dumping,” requiring emergency rooms to “stabilize” patients before releasing them, regardless of their ability to pay their medical bills. Violators face fines of up to $50,000 per incident and the possible termination of their Medicare agreement.
A 2016 study based on data provided by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Inspector General found 192 so-called “dumping” settlements, totaling $6,357,000, over a 13 year period.
“That is not what occurred” in this case, Suntha told reporters, adding that the incident was an “aberration.”
The hospital has pledged to hold the individuals involved accountable for the incident and promised to interview everyone who interacted with the patient, including the hospital workers shown in the video.