Thursday, January 11, 2018
Tyler Waldman, WBAL NewsRadio 1090
The president and CEO of University Maryland Medical Center’s Midtown campus said Thursday there are no excuses for what happened to the patient recently found alone outside the hospital in freezing temperatures.
The woman, dressed only in a hospital gown and socks, appeared disoriented and distressed in a video that went viral Wednesday.
“We believe firmly that we provided appropriate medical care to a patient who came us in need,” Dr. Mohan Suntha said, but failed in their “demonstration of basic humanity and compassion as a patient was being discharged from our organization after having received that care.”
He offered his apologies to the patient, her family and the community. Suntha said hospital officials are working on an extensive internal review, talking to everyone who was involved in the unidentified woman’s care, from registration staffers to nurses to technicians.
“Part of the challenge that we face and the responsibility that we have is to take on those challenges of both healthcare delivered and, the best that we can, address the social needs of our patients as they come into the organization and when they leave,” Suntha said. “We are trying to understand the points of failure that led to what was witnessed on that video. We are holding individuals who made decisions accountable for those decisions.”
He stressed that the patient was not mistreated while she was in their care. He also said he’s been trying to personally reach out to the person who took the video, so he can thank him for two good deeds.
“What I saw was an individual who was trying to do the right thing, who was trying to advocate for someone they saw in need,” Suntha said. “The other half of the thank you was for doing something that obviously brought you all here today… and to highlight the failure of our organization.”
“I was mad as hell” at the hospital, Imamu Baraka told ABC News. He is the man who filmed that video.
He says he confronted hospital workers after he noticed the woman’s strange behavior and worried she might stagger into the street.
“So you all are okay with leaving that woman out there like that?” he asks in the video, as the workers drag an empty wheelchair back inside the building. “That is not okay.”
“I don’t know what they were thinking,” he told ABC News.
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When Baraka called 911, an ambulance arrived — only to transport the woman back to the hospital from which she had been discharged moments earlier.
“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?” he told ABC News. “They could have handled this a lot better.”
The hospital has fought back against criticism that the woman was denied care based on her inability to pay.
Federal law forbids “patient dumping,” requiring 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.
A 2016 study based on data provided by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Inspector General found 192 so-called “dumping” settlements, totaling $6,357,000, over a 13 year period.
He said the hospital must own what happened to this patient, but said they also must “learn from this failure” and ensure it does not happen again or be allowed to define them.
ABC News Radio contributed to this report.