'Patient dumping' in spotlight after video of Baltimore woman left outside in hospital gown

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A video of a patient discharged from the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) in Baltimore and left at a bus stop wearning only a thin hospital gown has prompted criticism of the hospital, an apology and the promise of a state investigation.

Imamu Baraka, a psychotherapist practicing in Baltimore who identified himself as a doctor of healthcare administration (DHA) student at the university, filmed the viral video, which showed what appeared to be four hospital security guards leaving the woman standing by a bus stop outside UMMC when the temperature was only in the 30s. He followed the guards as they walked away with an empty wheelchair, asking, “So wait, y’all just going to leave this lady out here with no clothes on?”

The woman appeared disoriented and didn’t answer all of Baraka’s questions as he called for an ambulance. He urged her to sit down next to two plastic bags containing her belonging and a pair of shoes. In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, he said an ambulance crew came and took her back inside the hospital. He then waited two hours to make sure she wasn’t left back at the bus stop.

He said he was since spoken to the woman’s mother, who told him the woman is “now safe with family and being well taken care of.”

UMMC president and CEO Mohan Suntha, MD, held a press conference on Jan. 11 apologizing for how the patient was treated. He said the hospital failed to provide “basic humanity and compassion,” but didn’t give a reason as to why the woman was left outside in the cold in her condition.

The Maryland Office of Health Care Quality has said it will investigate the incident. UMMC may face major fines if its found to have engaged in “patient dumping practices.” Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles, for example, once paid $1 million to settle allegations it dumped a paraplegic man on the street without a wheelchair. The man was found crawling around the city’s Skid Row, where much of its homeless population lives.

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