“I had no choice.”
Those were the words uttered by a hospital employee as he pushed security officers push a distraught patient’s wheelchair out into a freezing Baltimore night. The woman would have been left alone and shivering by a bus stop if the horrific encounter hadn’t been caught on video.
Imamu Baraka, a doctoral student at the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), witnessed the entire he incident. He filmed what he saw and posted the video online, where it quickly gained traction.
“I just witnessed this with my own eyes,” Baraka wrote on Facebook. “I had no choice but to give this young lady a voice in this moment.”
Uninsured, mentally-ill, and homeless patients are often dumped onto the streets by hospitals. The staff is usually too overworked to make sure that difficult patients leave the hospital the right way.
“So, y’all are just gonna leave this lady out here with no clothes on? That is not okay,” Baraka is heard saying in the clip. “They just left all of her stuff out here. This is disgusting that they would just leave her unattended on a bus stop half naked. It’s gotta be at least 40 degrees or colder.”
The unidentified woman unceremoniously dumped outside by UMMS employees deserved better treatment. She was left to endure the cold with nothing more than her hospital gown. The hospital had no reason to think that she had anywhere to go. She could easily have died if Baraka hadn’t stumbled upon her.
“This unfortunate event is not representative of our patient-centered mission,” reads a statement released by the UMMS.
“While there are many circumstances of this patient’s case that we cannot address publicly, in the end, we clearly failed to fulfill our mission with this patient, no matter the circumstances of her case or the quality of the clinical care we provided in the hospital (which is not depicted in the video).”
Hospitals are in a very difficult position. Resources are limited and they don’t have enough beds to house every person in need. However, that’s no excuse for inhumane treatment. Patients arrive to be treated, not scorned.
Bakara refused to the leave the woman’s side. Eventually, he called 911 and she was brought back to the same hospital that had discharged her.
“University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus (UMMC) as a Doctor of Healthcare Administration (DHA) student — may I remind you of the importance of the VISION of your MEDICAL CENTER,” Bakara wrote on Facebook.
“UMMC will be known for providing high value and compassionate care, improving health in Maryland and beyond, educating future health care leaders and discovering innovative ways to advance medicine worldwide.’ You can do better. You must do better.”
The term patient dumping was coined in the 1980s. People were horrified to learn that poor, mentally-disturbed patients often received a lower standard of care than wealthier ones. Poor patients were discharged as callously as the Baltimore patient was.
Bustle writes: “Public outrage over this method of discharging patients led to the enactment of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, a federal law that requires anyone coming to an emergency department to be stabilized and treated, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. Hospitals and physicians caught violating the law can face a fine up to $50,000 per violation and are subject to lawsuits.”
America’s struggling healthcare system desperately needs to be reformed. Obamacare didn’t work; hospitals are too poor to care for their neediest patients. We’re the richest nation in the world yet the Baltimore patient was left outside without even a jacket to help keep warm.
Hopefully, President Trump will be able to accomplish more than his predecessor did.