A top Baltimore hospital executive has apologized after a woman wearing only a gown and socks was discharged at a bus stop at night, what one man who later came to her aid said left him outraged and stunned.
Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and CEO of University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus, told a news conference Thursday that the hospital “failed” after a video posted on Facebook showed the unidentified woman mumbling and appearing disoriented in frigid weather outside. Speaking with reporters, Suntha also said Thursday there were no excuses for what happened to her.
“We believe firmly that we provided appropriate 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 a patient was being discharged from our organization after having received that care,” he said.
“We do not believe that what occurred Tuesday night in any way defines who we are as an organization. There has been a lot of conversation since this incident came to light,” Suntha said.
He added that the woman wasn’t mistreated while in the hospital’s care and that the incident was isolated and that hospital officials were working on an extensive internal review. The hospital confirmed in a statement that the woman was discharged Tuesday night.
Imamu Baraka, identified in local reports as the man who witnessed events unfolding and also sought to help the woman, told The Associated Press on Thursday night that he was stunned. Consequently, he said, he decided to record what he could on cellphone video.
“I saw the unthinkable, another human in a wheelchair being wheeled out in the dead of cold,” he said in a phone interivew, describing frigid temperatures in the 30s and a cold wind blowing at her hospital gown and exposing her to the elements.
Baraka, who said he has a psychotherapy practice in a building across the street from the hospital, said he rushed back to his office and grabbed his cellphone to return and record events, growing increasingly angry. He said he even challenged those who wheeled her out to the street.
“I asked them three times, I asked them specifically, ‘Are you going to leave this lady out here like this?’ They kept walking. They then went inside of the building.” He said he went and asked a security guard outside the hospital for a supervisor and was told “I am the supervisor.”
He said he then went and tried to help the woman and dial 911 for an ambulance. He said once the ambulance arrived, he asked its crew where they were going to take her, and they replied “back to the hospital.” Recalled Baraka, “I said, ‘Are you kidding me, they just dumped her on the curb.'”
It wasn’t immediately clear what happened to the woman after she was driven back toward the hospital.
He said he went through a range of emotions that night, his voice still thick with emotion Thursday.
“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 recalled.
He said he remains concerned for the woman and has sought out her mother and also spoken with the hospital CEO since then about the steps they promised to take in light of what happened.