'Naked and alone': Video captures Baltimore hospital staff abandoning patient at bus stop
A hospital in Baltimore is investigating how a patient with mental illness was left "out on the curb" in freezing temperatures this week, wearing just a hospital gown and socks.
The incident happened on Tuesday night, when security guards at the University of Maryland Medical Center hospital were seen taking a woman in a wheelchair out to a bus stop.
The video shows them sitting her down on a bench in the bus shelter, leaving her there, and wheeling the chair back to the hospital.
Imamu Baraka, a mental health counsellor in Baltimore, filmed the whole thing.
Here's part of his conversation with As It Happens host Carol Off.
What was the first thing you noticed that disturbed you on Tuesday evening?
What caused me to pause was a group of individuals in black. I didn't know at the time that they were security guards. They were with a patient exiting the hospital. And then there was a gust of wind that blew the gown that the young lady was wearing just above her waist.
And at that moment I thought, this isn't right. And then I saw her foot fall from the foot resting place on the wheelchair. And someone had to put her foot back on that resting place. And at that moment, to be honest with you, I actually thought she was dead.
She was in the wheelchair, they were wheeling her out. ... Where were they taking her?
They were actually taking her to the bus stop that is right outside of the ambulance entrance door to sit her in that bus covering on a bench with her belongings. With nothing more than a hospital gown and socks.
And what went through your mind when you saw that?
I realized when I saw all of this, I didn't have my cellphone on me. So I ran back into my office. And the video picks up with me crossing the street and hitting the record button, because I knew that something bad was happening there. And I could not believe my eyes.
When you start recording, it begins with you following these four staff members back towards the hospital. Is that the point at which you realized this was security and they had just dumped this semi-naked woman off at the bus station?
What really caused me concern was that they were coming in my direction with an empty wheelchair. And that's in the video as well. And when I saw that, I began to ask them questions.
They became rather flippant with their response. Some ignored me, and I followed them asking them questions like, "Are you just going to leave this lady here, really?"
And when I got to the door of the hospital I asked for a supervisor. And the gentleman made it very clear to me, by saying, "Well, I am the supervisor." And that's when I became enraged.
You went back to help the woman. By this time, she was up from the bus station, walking the street. And you're trying to get her seated so you can do something. What was your sense of her condition?
When I began to sort of engage her, the therapist in my head kicked in. She was unable to speak, [but] her movements, her body language was also speaking to me.
When she began to stumble, I really wanted to get her stabilized. The video also shows she had a bruise on her head already. I was able to coax her in my direction to have a seat. And at that time I knew there was something really wrong.
It's very disturbing to watch, because she is so distraught. She is cold, she's in pain, she's almost naked. And at some point you know you have to get someone to take her back to the hospital. How did you do that?
I called 911, I told them what was going on, and where I was.
Between the time that I made that call up until they arrived, my intent was to be there in that space with her fully. I wanted to let her know she was safe. I wanted to inform her that I was not going to allow anything to happen to her.
I asked her to smile, and she began to smile and laugh a little bit. I know it was hard, I knew it was cold, but I wanted to just get her out of the headspace she was in in that moment, until help came.
The president of the University of Maryland Medical Center has apologized. .. Why did they do it? Why did they put her out on the street?
I have no idea. And I don't want to know. I don't want to go to that dark space that would allow another human out on the curb like garbage in the dead of night, in the heart of Baltimore, naked, alone, and unable to fend for herself. So I will chalk it up to being irresponsible.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. To hear the full interview with Imamu Baraka, listen in the audio player above.