Witness the greatest health care system in the world in action

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.


  1. Trickster Goddess says

    The man was interviewed on CBC Radio last night. He said that while he was waiting out front to make sure they didn’t bring her back out to the bus stop, he later learned that they took out a different entrance and she ended up in a homeless shelter.

  2. sonofrojblake says

    Prisons is another obvious one, but there’s no funny sketch about that because it actually happens, especially in the kind of countries that haven’t, even in the 21st century, outlawed slavery yet. Like the USA.

    Don’t medical professionals in the USA have any concept of a “duty of care”? Don’t they have any independent standards-setting body to oversee practice and disbar those who are so negligent of that duty that they put patient’s lives at risk? Most civilised countries have such bodies and it would be illegal to practice medicine without a licence from them. Doesn’t the USA have that yet?

  3. kestrel says

    Although I completely agree that the US has a shitty healthcare system, I wonder if this is not actually a symptom of another problem the country has. That is, we have no place and make no provision for what I think the hospital calls “psych patients”. In this case we have a young woman who has mental health issues and was not taking her medication, but yet is considered to be autonomous and capable and was put out on the street. (Horrifying.) A lot of times these people end up living on the street, since they can’t really function very well in society. For example it can be hard for such patients to get and keep a job, or pay rent and so on. They end up in the hospital over and over, the ER really has no place where these people can stay permanently, and they simply have no where to go. They also end up getting arrested and taken to jail over and over, but again, the jail has no permanent place for them to live. Sooner or later the jail also turns them out on the street. Only to arrest them again, or take them to the ER again.

    We used to have places for such people to live and yes, there were horrible abuses of the system, and I agree that it needed to change but that isn’t what happened. It simply all went away during the Reagan era but was not replaced with anything. These people are still here, we as a society should be trying to make a place for ALL citizens, but we have certainly not solved this problem and I don’t know that many people are even aware of it. I am personally not aware of any efforts to work on this. These poor people end up getting shuffled from place to place and really have no where to go, unless they are fortunate enough to have a family member with the training and dedication to take care of them for life.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    The phrase “care in the community” was the euphemism Thatcher’s government used for “closing all the mental hospitals” in the 1980s. As a result UK care of the mentally ill isn’t great either, but we’ve not sunk to the depths of getting security to turf dependent people onto the street being policy quite yet.

  5. says

    That is, we have no place and make no provision for what I think the hospital calls “psych patients”.

    The US’ mental hospitals were closed under Saint Reagan. Which resulted in a lot of patients on the streets where they died, killed themselves, or wound up in prison. It is a national disgrace. I’m not saying the hospitals were all that great to begin with -- psychiatry has a lot of sins to answer for -- but at least they were somewhat sheltered.

    The measure of any society is how it treats its weakest and most needy members. By that measure, the US is monstrous.

  6. says

    These people are still here, we as a society should be trying to make a place for ALL citizens, but we have certainly not solved this problem and I don’t know that many people are even aware of it.

    Hey, have you seen the new Zumwalt-class Frigate (formerly destroyer)? Who needs mental health when you can have a new frigate!?

  7. kestrel says

    @sonofrojblake: Well crap. That’s pretty depressing… I was hoping that England was a bit more enlightened. SIGH. And BTW every time I see your user name I think about Blake’s 7.

    @Marcus: Oh yeah, just what the US needs… more shit to kill people with. If we only had enough brains (and guts, or whatever) to reduce our military spending we would have LOTS of money to throw at this and many other urgent problems. Quite cynically, I don’t think we’ll ever develop the smarts for that. I think the entire place will fall apart first.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    The (large) hospital affiliated with the University of Florida has a bad rep for regularly dumping poor & homeless patients on the sidewalk still hooked up to IV lines, hauling their little wheeled bag-stands with them.

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