A viral video of a recently discharged patient left at a bus stop at night in Baltimore has inspired widespread outrage and prompted an investigation at the hospital where she was treated.
The video is distressing to watch -- both for its content and for the questions it raises about the events leading up to it.
A young woman, wearing only a hospital gown and socks, is left standing by a bus stop Tuesday night or early Wednesday as four men in uniforms, possibly security guards, walk away. The man who filmed it, Imamu Baraka, follows them as they leave the stop with an empty wheelchair.
"Wait, so you all are just going to leave this lady out here with no clothes on?" he says. "That is not okay."
One of the men replies it was "due to the circumstances of what happened."
The young woman barely speaks and seems dazed, occasionally crying out. Baraka urges her to sit at the bus stop, where two plastic bags full of the woman's belongings lie on the ground next to a pair of shoes. As she approaches the cold bench, the thin gown exposes her bare skin.
According to weather reports, the temperature in Baltimore was in the 30s the night the video was filmed.
'I am disgusted'
Baraka's Facebook posts about the incident, published early Wednesday morning, have almost 40,000 shares combined and thousands of comments expressing disbelief. His initial video has 1.2 million views.
In a follow-up video, Baraka explains that he called an ambulance to come pick up the young woman. She was taken back to the hospital, he told HLN.
Baraka, who says he works as a psychotherapist in the Baltimore area, acknowledges the woman could have been "unruly," and that one of the men who dropped her off seemed to imply as much.
He muses that the hospital staff should have perhaps committed her "until they are clear about what's happening."
"You can't expect those with mental health issues to be pleasant. Because they're ill," he says. "I am disgusted by the lack of empathy that I am seeing displayed."
"What I was clear about is that here you had a human being that was left to fend for themselves in this condition. Unacceptable," he told HLN on Thursday. "Clearly she was in the hospital for a reason. And what I'm clear about is that there was a human being who needed help in that moment."
The incident happened outside the University of Maryland Medical Center's midtown campus.
In a news conference Thursday, the center's CEO apologized to the patient and her family, and said that the incident was a "breakdown of basic human compassion."
"We feel firmly that we provided adequate medical care to a patient who came to us in need. But where we absolutely failed, and where we own that failure, is in the demonstration of basic humanity and compassion as the patient was being discharged from our organization after receiving that care," the CEO, Dr. Mohan Suntha, said.
"I share the community's shock and anger with what occurred," he said. He added that the center has launched a comprehensive review into what happened.
He said the center is "holding individuals who made decisions accountable for those decisions," but he did not elaborate, other than saying that interviews are underway.
He did not say what the patient was being treated for, citing her privacy rights.
Suntha said the way she was discharged had nothing to do with an inability to pay or her insurance status.
Earlier, the center said in a prepared statement that the incident was "not representative of our patient-centered mission."
"While there are many circumstances of this patient's case that we cannot address publicly, in the end we clearly failed to fulfill our mission with this patient, no matter the circumstances of her case or the quality of the clinical care we provided in the hospital (which is not depicted in the video). We are taking this matter very seriously, conducting a thorough review, and are evaluating the appropriate response, including the possibility of personnel action."
Many who watched the video wondered what happened to the patient after she was taken back to the hospital. When asked about this, Karen Lancaster, a spokeswoman for the University of Maryland Medical System, said "patient privacy regulations restrict us from providing any details."
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