Imamu Baraka couldn’t believe his eyes as security guards from a nearby hospital dropped off a dazed and obviously unwell woman at a bus stop and walked away one evening last week.
“Are you going to leave this lady out here like this?” he asked. The woman, just discharged from University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus, had on only a hospital gown and no shoes in the 30 degree January cold. She was unable to respond normally to Baraka’s entreaties to come sit down as she walked around aimlessly. Two plastic bags of her belongings sat on the sidewalk.
Baraka, a psychotherapist whose office is across the street from the hospital, began filming as he walked behind the security guards, pleading with them to not leave the woman. The men refused to answer as they headed back through the hospital doors.
Baraka said his video was the means to get some answers. After it went viral, the hospital’s CEO and president, Mohan Suntha, said he believed the 22-year-old woman had received good healthcare at the hospital but admitted, “We absolutely failed … in the demonstration of basic humanity and compassion” while she was being discharged.
Baraka returned immediately to the bus stop to help the woman. He reported the incident by calling 911, and an ambulance returned to bring the woman back to the hospital. He learned the hospital then put the woman in a taxi to a homeless shelter, where her mother later found her, according to The Baltimore Sun.
The newspaper has reported other instances of what is known as patient dumping, or discharging patients without providing needed services.
Elements of the normal discharge process always include documentation. And a mandatory part of every hospital’s accreditation is an individualized discharge plan made prior to the patient’s departure, “to ensure that patients are discharged at an appropriate time and with provision of adequate post-discharge services,” according to an article by Drs. Eric Alper, Terrence O’Malley, and Jeffrey Greenwald.
Though Baraka himself intervened on the spur of the moment out of compassion, with 45,000 shares on Facebook, it was his viral video that enabled the unnamed woman’s mother to trace her at the shelter. She said her daughter had been missing for two weeks.
“She’s getting the treatment she needs … things she could not get before, because of this video,” Baraka said. —R.H.