“I saw the unthinkable: another human in a wheelchair being wheeled out in the dead of cold,” Imamu Baraka said of the horrifying scene he witnessed earlier this week.
“At first I was shocked. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. And I move beyond that to the next level from being shocked. I became … irritated and fearful for the young lady. And then I became angry,” he told the Associated Press.
Baraka was walking past the University of Maryland Medical Center on Tuesday night when he watched the hospital’s security guards wheel a patient wearing only a thin gown and socks to a bus stop. The guards left her there in the freezing temperatures.
Baraka, who said he has a psychotherapy practice in a building across the street from the Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus, said he rushed back to his office and grabbed his cellphone so he could record the incident. He feared no one would believe him if he reported what he saw.
Here’s what he caught on video.
In the video, you can hear Baraka asking the woman, “It’s about 30 degrees out here right now. Are you OK, ma’am? Do you need me to call the police?”
“Are you unable to speak?” Baraka asks the woman. “Why don’t you sit down, ma’am? You don’t look well. Come and sit down.”
Baraka uploaded video footage of his encounter with the woman on Facebook:
Now the University of Maryland Medical Center is being accused of a practice known as “patient dumping” or “hospital dumping” in which patients who are homeless, mentally ill, or both are released to the streets, The Baltimore Sun reports. The practice also involves people who are uninsured or have financial issues. It is unclear if those were factors in this patient’s case.
In a statement, the University of Maryland Medical Center said that they “share the shock and disappointment of many who have viewed the video. In the end we clearly failed to fulfill our mission with this patient.”
The Baltimore Sun reports that Dr. Mohan Suntha, the University of Maryland Medical Center’s president and CEO, apologized for the incident, stating “We take full responsibility for this failure.” He added that the hospital did not provide “basic humanity and compassion.”
Baraka said that he stopped recording 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, reports The Baltimore Sun.
In a Facebook video that evening, Baraka described what happened next:
He has since spoken with the woman’s mother, Baraka said, who contacted him after seeing the video. During a 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, The Sun reports:
The family told Baraka that the hospital had put the woman in a cab to a homeless shelter and that was where the mother found her. He declined to describe her mental or medical conditions or why her family didn’t know where she was.
“She said her daughter had been missing,” he said. “She did some momma bear stuff to find her after she saw the video.”
Hospital officials have not said what the woman was treated for in the emergency room or why she was left out in the cold near a public transit bus stop. Suntha said she received proper care while in the hospital and that the incident happened after discharge, but couldn’t say more due to privacy laws.
The hospital is still working to determine how to respond and could take personnel action.
“We share the community’s anger and concern,” Suntha said.
Amid the flood of public interest surrounding the video, Suntha thankedBaraka for filming the incident.
“OK, fix it,” Baraka said.
“If you want to thank me: fix it.”
Lily Dane is a staff writer for The Daily Sheeple. Her goal is to help people to “Wake the Flock Up!”