In a video posted online that quickly went viral, an unidentified woman dressed only in a hospital gown, socks, and a dangling surgical mask, is left by hospital staff at a Baltimore bus stop in the freezing cold as she stumbles and moans despondently. The hospital has claimed its staff “provided appropriate medical care for the woman.”
University of Maryland Medical Center President Dr. Mohan Suntha stated, “We believe when the patient was in our ER, the patient’s healthcare needs were addressed appropriately.” Yet, he added workers only failed to demonstrate “compassion” during the discharge process. “We take full responsibility for this failure,” Suntha said at a press conference, admitting the hospital did not provide “basic humanity and compassion.”
Imamu Baraka, who is responsible for the viral video, said, “I was mad as hell” at the hospital. He indicated he confronted workers after he noticed the woman’s strange behavior expressing worry that she might stagger into the street, and shouting, “So you all are okay with leaving that woman out there like that? That is not okay.”
In an interview, Baraka shakes his head, “I don’t know what they were thinking.” When he tells reporters he called 911 and an ambulance arrived only to transport the woman back to the same hospital from which she had just been discharged. “She just came out of this hospital and was abandoned here on the curb. You’re going to take her back? What do you think they’re going to do with her if they set her out on the curb the first time? They could have handled this a lot better.”
Federal law forbids ‘patient dumping’. The law requires 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. The hospital has fought back against criticism that the woman was denied care based on her inability to pay. “That is not what occurred” in this case, Suntha argued, adding that the incident was an “aberration” and the hospital plans to hold the individuals involved accountable.
Of his decision to start filming, Baraka said, “The reason I did that was to protect her and to protect me. No one would have believed me. This video is now the voice for her, because as you see in it, she was not able to speak for herself.” He added that there was no way he was going to let something so horrible go unchecked. “No, not on my watch,” he said.
During the conference, Suntha said his purpose for reaching out to Baraka about the viral video was to thank him for what he had done. “What I saw was an individual who was trying to do the right thing,” he said. “Trying to advocate for someone they saw in need.”
Baraka responded that those are just words, and actions speak louder, stating he himself has held positions in “corporate America” and Suntha’s reaction was in the hospital’s best interest.
“If you want to thank me – fix it,” he replied.