A federal investigation has been launched after video of a woman in a wheelchair being “dumped” outside a Baltimore hospital went viral.
The video caught the attention of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which will look into whether the hospital violated federal regulatory requirements, NPR reports.
Psychoanalyst Imamu Baraka captured the incident on video on Jan. 9 after witnessing hospital security guards wheel a woman in a hospital gown to the bus stop in freezing weather.
“So, y’all are just gonna leave this lady out here with no clothes on? That is not okay,” Baraka is heard saying to the officials of the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus. He added: “They just left all of her stuff out here. This is disgusting that they would just leave her unattended on a bus stop half naked. It’s gotta be at least 40 degrees or colder.”
CMS is in charge of regulating the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which requires Medicare-participating hospitals to treat all patients who come into the emergency room. They have not detailed which penalties are being investigated.
“If you get the federal government involved and they're looking into your actions and nonactions, it's a big deal, practically and symbolically,” Frankie Berger, the director of advocacy at the Treatment Advocacy Center, told NPR.
The video brought renewed focus on how hospitals treat some of their patients who are homeless, suffer from mental illness or can't afford health care. The University of Maryland Medical Center was accused of “patient dumping.”
According to CBS News, this is when hospitals throw patients out who are uninsured or have financial issues.
The woman in the video was in a state of “acute psychosis” when she was dumped, her lawyer J. Wyndal Gordon explained. She was not homeless and she had medical insurance. Her family is currently exploring legal action.
“More investigation needs to be done before we figure out all of the contours of the civil litigation,” Gordon said. “But the University of Maryland is in our crosshairs, the doctors who mistreated her are in our crosshairs, the security guards — if they are in any way responsible for the trauma that she suffered — are in our crosshairs.”