Imamu Baraka was leaving work in Baltimore when he was stunned to see security personnel from the University of Maryland Medical Center take a woman and leave her out in the cold at a bus shelter and dump her things next to her on the ground. Despite the weather being near the freezing point, she was wearing just a flimsy hospital gown with no shoes or underwear. You can see the video he took here.
Unfortunately this kind of patient dumping (sadly, it even has a name) has a long history in the US as hospitals try to get rid of patients whom they think cannot pay. This is the scandal of a for-profit health care system. In a country that had single-payer health care, there would be no incentive to do such a cruel thing.
The hospital’s CEO Mohan Suntha has apologized and said that it was an isolated incident and that they are reviewing their ‘discharge policies’. Yeah, right, as if the security personnel just decided to do this on their own. It had all the appearance of something they did routinely.
Baraka said that he stopped videotaping at some point to call 911 and an ambulance crew came and took the woman back into the hospital. He said he waited for two hours to make sure they didn’t bring her back out to the bus stop. He said he heard her say “thank you” as she was led away.
Baraka has since spoken with the woman’s mother, who contacted him after seeing the video. During the three-hour discussion, she told him her daughter was 22 years old. The woman is now safe with family and being well taken care of, he said.
Hospital officials said they are still working to determine how to respond and could take a personnel action.
“We share the community’s anger and concern,” Suntha said.
Baraka said the results of the investigation should be made public.
“You’re telling me no doctor or nurse or social worker asked where she was going?” Baraka asked. “And why were they taking her outside with no clothes on? Someone called for security? Was this the cultural norm?”
Unfortunately, calling the police is something that many people will hesitate to do because the police have an atrocious history when it comes to treating people of color, especially if they may have mental problems. If for whatever reason you do not respond immediately to police demands, as this woman might well have done since she seemed really confused, your non-compliance could be taken as aggression and you could be shot.