Photo Credit: Screen Capture from Imamu Baraka’s video.
This week, on a night with temperatures that dropped below freezing, hospital personnel at the University of Maryland Medical Center dumped a disenfranchised 22-year-old woman out onto the curbside, clad in nothing but a hospital gown. No shoes. No underwear.
Imamu Baraka, a psychologist who was leaving work nearby, noticed the hospital staffers throwing the woman, reportedly named Rebecca, out in the cold. Aghast, he took out his phone to film the incident. The footage shows Rebecca as she stumbles over to a nearby bench, coughing and shivering and visibly disoriented. The psychologist keeps filming as he confronts the hospital staff, asking for a manager, and checks on the shivering woman.
Baraka posted the video on Facebook and it has since gone viral, with almost 3 million views just days since it was uploaded.
He said he started recording because he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“I had no choice but to give this young lady a voice in this moment,” Baraka said to Associated Press. “
Gene Sperling, who was a national economy advisor to both Clinton and Obama, tweeted that those responsible for the incident should be charged with “attempted murder.”
Good for you @Imamu_Baraka. What you stopped is not just “patient dumping” of “not fulfilling” their “mission with this patient” as MD Med Center said. It seems more like attempted murder that your decency stopped. https://t.co/zFpjLc1Q40
— Gene Sperling (@genebsperling) January 11, 2018
The incident has also bolstered the arguments of advocates for a single payer health care system, who argue patient dumping is a symptom of an underfunded, unbalanced healthcare system.
RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, said following the incident that the only solution to this kind of treatment of patients is to “implement single-payer, Medicare for All or Americans continue to suffer/die.”
As noted in a recent LA Times article:
“The Commission on Civil Rights’ report found insufficient regulatory oversight as well as a lack of funding to adequately treat the population contributed to patient dumping.
The commission called for reforms to the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act, increased oversight and training, better linking community mental health services to hospitals, and consistent discharge planning.”
The hospital’s president and CEO, Dr. Mohan Suntha, publicly apologized to the patient, calling the event an isolated incident.
“We take full responsibility for this failure,” Suntha said in a news conference on Jan. 11, acknowledging the hospital’s lack of “basic humanity and compassion.”
The mother of the patient in the video called those responsible for tossing her daughter out on the street, nearly naked in icy temperatures “callous and heartless” according to CBS News reports. The patient’s mother also reportedly told CBS her daughter has a mental illness called schizoaffective disorder: bipolar type, and Asperger’s syndrome, and is currently being treated elsewhere.
Suntha said the hospital is investigating further and reviewing its patient discharge policies.
In the wake of the video, many are questioning the basic human decency of the hospital employees responsible, and the apparent pervasiveness of patient dumping. Patient dumping is not a new phenomenon, and it’s not that uncommon, according to a detailed report by the LA Times, which states near the beginning:
“The University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown in Baltimore is the latest hospital across the country accused of patient dumping after discharging a woman one cold night this week dressed in only a hospital gown and socks.”
For instance, LA Times ran a story in 2016 on the Hawaiian Gardens hospital, which paid $450,000 to L.A. to settle a homeless patient dumping lawsuit that year.
In 2007 60 Minutes covered Kaiser Permanente’s commonplace patient dumping of homeless people wearing nothing but hospital gowns in Los Angeles, and in 2017 The Washington Post detailed patient dumping at Washington D.C.’s Howard University Hospital. There are hundreds of reported incidents of patient dumping in the last couple of decades.
This week’s LA Timesarticle on patient dumping explains that it has been going on in the U.S. at least since the 1870s, which is when the New York Times first started covering the practice and the term “patient dumping” was first coined. Back then, patient dumping mainly referred to private hospitals turning away poor patients, sending them to the public hospitals instead. It’s no longer legal for hospitals and emergency rooms to deny people treatment if they can’t pay, but patient dumping continues.
You can watch Imamu Baraka’s video of the recent patient dumping incident below: