In a report released Tuesday, a federal regulator faulted a Baltimore hospital after a mentally ill woman clad only in a hospital gown was filmed being forcibly removed from its emergency room on a cold night this year.
In a widely viewed video circulated on social media in January, a mentally ill woman identified by her family only as Rebecca was removed from the University of Maryland Medical Center by security guards.
“So wait, y’all just going to leave this lady out here with no clothes on?” Imamu Baraka, who filmed the incident, asked the guards. Rebecca’s face appeared bloody, and she moaned: “Please help me!”
In a report dated March 2 sent to The Washington Post on Tuesday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a part of the Department of Health and Human Services, detailed an investigation of “deficiencies of EMTALA” at the hospital — failures to comply with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, a federal law that sets standards of care in emergency rooms.
The report detailed the experience of “Patient #1,” a patient who came to the emergency room in January. The hospital declined to identify the patient as Rebecca; Cheryl Chandler, Rebecca’s mother, said it was her.
The patient was admitted about 1 p.m. after a fall from a motorized bike, the report said, resulting in a minor head injury. The patient was “found to be free of an emergency medical condition and was cleared for discharge,” according to the report.
But about 11:40 p.m., the patient “was resistant to discharge and would not dress,” the report said. She was removed by security “while still in a hospital gown,” and brought back by ambulance just half an hour later.
“I do not feel normal, and do not know what normal is,” the patient said.
The patient was then taken to a homeless shelter in a taxi without an exam, and was not re-registered.
In the report, which leaves space for health-care providers to respond, the hospital described the incident as “an aberration.”
“We take responsibility for the combination of circumstances in January that failed to compassionately meet our patient’s needs beyond the initial medical care provided,” Karen Lancaster, a hospital spokeswoman, said in a statement. “While our own thorough self-examination revealed some shortcomings, the regulatory assessment punctuates the necessity to more firmly demonstrate our unwavering commitment to safe, quality, compassionate patient care.”
Chandler, who said her daughter is now being treated at Johns Hopkins, likened the hospital’s treatment to throwing patients “out in the cold to die.”
“What the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown did to Rebecca was not only inhumane but criminal,” Chandler wrote in a text message. “Not one doctor, nurse, security guard that came in contact with Rebecca treated her with compassion and definitely didn’t a provide her with proper clinical care.” She added: “They are being held accountable for what they did.”