Howard University officials are investigating an incident involving a female patient at the university’s hospital who was dumped from a wheelchair by campus police officers and left lying on the ground at a nearby bus stop.
The incident, captured on video, appears to show a male officer pushing the barefoot woman in the chair along Georgia Avenue. The woman’s legs are flung in the air when the officer stops abruptly and she tumbles out of the chair. A second male officer and a female officer watched as the woman hits the ground.
Howard spokeswoman Crystal Brown said that the matter is under investigation and that the officers have been put on leave pending the outcome. Brown declined to release their names, citing personnel matters. She also declined to identify the woman or describe why she was at the hospital, why officers removed her, who issued the order and why they left her on the street.
“I can’t really talk about the discharge of a patient,” Brown said.
She also did not respond to written questions about the incident.
Passersby could be heard on the video expressing concern about the woman, who was left on the ground with no wheelchair and no hospital personnel.
“What the freak are they doing to this lady?” one man can be heard saying. “What the freak is going on here?”
“Why would they leave her out here like that?” a female bystander asks.
A female officer throws up her gloved hand and tells the male officers to “leave her there.”
The woman remained motionless on her side as one of the male officers tosses a small, black cosmetic-size bag from the chair near her and walks away.
“You can worry about her all you want to — she threw herself on the ground,” the female officers told onlookers.
James Diegel, chief executive of Howard University Hospital, and Mae Johnson, deputy police chief at the hospital, did not return calls Tuesday seeking comment.
The incident occurred several weeks ago. Several Howard officials have viewed the video, which was taken by a bystander. The Washington Post has also watched the video.
University board members were notified of the incident by email.
“I received a notice that there was an incident associated with the hospital,” said trustee George K. Littleton, who teaches in the College of Medicine. “There were no details.”
Littleton said he was troubled after learning of the matter.
“I think it’s a terrible thing,” he said. “We have not specifically met to address this collectively.”
Trustee Marian Johnson-Thompson, a Howard and Georgetown University graduate and professor emerita of biology at the University of the District of Columbia, said she had not seen the video but that the hospital “endeavors every day to give the highest-quality care.”
Howard University Hospital has come under criticism from patients, former physicians and others for how it is run and its patient care. The Post reported in March that the hospital has paid more than $27 million in malpractice or wrongful-death settlements since 2007, among them an undisclosed amount given to the family of a woman who was discharged while still ailing, unable to walk unassisted and wearing only a hospital gown. Hospital staff called a taxi instead of a medical van to take the woman home. When she arrived, she collapsed in the lobby and died the next day.
A review of more than 675 medical malpractice and wrongful-death lawsuits filed since 2006 involving six D.C. hospitals found that Howard had the highest rate of death lawsuits per hospital bed.
The $27 million paid out by Howard represents just 22 of the 82 cases filed against the hospital and tracked by The Post.