Imamu Baraka just started filming when he saw hospital security guards outside the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown leaving a woman in her hospital gown near a bus stop.
And he didn’t stop until he had captured a shocking display of the “patient dumping” that would spark national outrage after he shared his video on Facebook.
“The reason I did that was to protect her and to protect me. No one would have believed me,” Baraka said. “This video is now the voice for her, because as you see in it, she was not able to speak for herself.”
There was no way he was going to let the incident go unchecked. “No, not on my watch.”
As of Friday morning, his post had more than 45,000 shares.
The hospital was thrust into the national spotlight after social media erupted with outrage. The video showed security guards leaving the disoriented woman from the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown on the street, dressed in just the hospital gown and socks in the 30 degree weather. It was the latest example of a practice known as “patient dumping” or “hospital dumping” in which hospital patients who are homeless, mentally ill or both are released to the streets. Other hospitals across the country have been exposed for doing the same thing.
Baraka, a psychotherapist, was leaving his office across the street from the hospital when he saw the woman.
“I felt my heart racing, and just the human-ness. ‘Oh hell no, not on my watch. You just left her? Are you serious?!’
“And then, the caring and compassion person came out, because I remembered there was a woman over there who needed help at the bus stop,” he said.
Baraka said that he stopped videotaping at some point to call 911 and an ambulance crew came and took the woman back into the hospital. He said he waited for two hours to make sure they didn’t bring her back out to the bus stop. He said he heard her say “thank you” as she was led away.
Baraka has since spoken with the woman’s mother, who contacted him after seeing the video. During the three-hour discussion, she told him her daughter was 22 years old. The woman is now safe with family and being well taken care of, he said.
The family told Baraka that the hospital had put the woman in a cab to a homeless shelter and that was where the mother found her. He declined to describe her mental or medical conditions or why her family didn’t know where she was.
“She said her daughter had been missing,” he said. “She did some momma bear stuff to find her after she saw the video.”
On Thursday, the University of Maryland Medical Center’s top executive, Dr. Mohan Suntha, apologized to the patient, saying “we take full responsibility for this failure.”
Amid the rush of public interest after the video, the head of the hospital thanked Baraka for filming the video.
“OK, fix it,” Baraka said.
“If you want to thank me: fix it.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Sean Welsh contributed to this article.