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What is patient dumping?

If you visit the hospital, the last thing you would expect is to be escorted off the premises while you are disoriented and have no way to contact anyone for a ride home. Sadly, this is a common occurrence for patients in Arizona and across the country, despite it being an uncompassionate, dangerous and even illegal act.

Last December, an incident involving a mentally ill patient being discharged from a Baltimore, Maryland, hospital wearing only a hospital gown made national news. As HealthCare Dive reported, a witness stepped in when hospital staff left the confused and incoherent woman alone at a bus stop. He called authorities and made sure she was readmitted before a family member claimed her.

The practice of discharging patients in unsafe conditions, often without adequate treatment or before they are ready to be released, is called patient dumping. This often happens to homeless people or uninsured patients. It may also happen if a patient is too confused to remember a relative’s contact number or has no identification for hospital staff to make a phone call to a family member. These patients are often taken by hospital staff to bus stops or sent to homeless shelters in taxis.

Patient dumping may violate the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act of 1986, which prohibits hospitals from discharging patients into unsafe conditions. You and your family members deserve to be treated with compassion and respect when you go to the hospital, regardless of whether you are insured or have identification.

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