To address the recent issue of "patient dumping" in Milwaukee, WI.
We have to start somewhere. No, it is not the hospitals responsibility to house the homeless. It is however their responsibility to ensure a safe and dignified discharge for all.
For many people, at many times, there is no one to call and no where to go. Shelters are usually full, many who are mentally ill have been banned from available places, those with physical disabilities have no where that can accommodate their needs etc.
We definitely need shelter reform, mental health care reform, stronger wrap around care, effective AODA options, dignified and humanized help. Again, not the hospitals responsibility, I get that. But, I think they should be more engaged in community efforts to help restructure our social safety nets. If anything to ensure they have a safe way to discharge homeless and/or mentally ill patients.
Through public awareness efforts a community task force is being built through Aurora/Sinai's. Many key players in the social services field are getting involved and hopefully other hospitals as well. We are optimistic that this will be the start of a collaborative effort to catch those falling between the cracks. Kudos to Aurora/Sinai for this! <3
*** This is not exclusive to any hospital or any city. Below are three Known examples we previously posted about from Milwaukee, WI in the last 10 months.
Documented cases of “patient dumping” by Street Angels Milwaukee Outreach
March 9, 2017 Froedtert
He was hit by a car, with two cast/broken legs and the ability to bear zero weight. Many tried to get him help/shelter but no shelter in the city could meet his needs. The hospital decided to discharge him anyway. After a couple hours of him sitting in the lobby he was wheeled to the curb, his bags were set beside him along with a shower chair and he was left to fend for himself.
The hospital staff and case workers knew he lived in a handmade shack in a small wooded area of the city and getting back to his “camp” would be impossible. And, even if he could get to his camp there was no way in his "cabin", no electricity, no running water etc...
Street Angels were called and we picked him up in the outreach bus (that happens to have a wheel chair lift). We took him to St. Lukes explained the situation and pleaded for help. they were able to admit him, soon after a care facility was found for him.
December 29, 2017 Sinai
The evening held below zero wind chills and Street Angels were out doing transportation to emergency warming rooms (open when the temps hit 10 or below). We were seeking out people who may need help near Sinai and witnessed four security guards wheeling a man across the street. The guard pushing the wheel chair lifted the back of it forcing the man to stand, they set his bags on the ground next to him and all four guards headed back to the hospital. We stopped and asked the guards if the man was homeless and if he had somewhere to go, the response received was “I don’t know, why don’t you ask him.”
We pulled up to the man and asked if he needed help. He told us he was homeless, he said he had nowhere to go and was having difficulty breathing. We took him over to the Repairers of The Breech emergency warming station and they in turn called 911 for the man because of his complaints of shortness of breath.
January 22, 2018 Sinai
Street Angels was tagged in a photo posted on a Milwaukee Facebook page. It was a photo of a man in a hospital gown, no shoes, no jacket, and sitting on the wet cold sidewalk. We recognized him; he was brought to the Street Angels emergency warming station two weeks prior.
He was being seen this day at Sinai for unknown reasons, a by stander witnessed security walking him out and leaving his torn bags next to him. The by stander took pictures and video of this occurrence. The by stander told Street Angels he overheard the security guards telling the man that he had been medically cleared and had to leave the hospital property. He said the man was asking to use the phone and he was also denied that request.
On our first encounter with him he was brought to us at 5am by West Allis PD on January 6th, 2018, he was in paper hospital pants with no shoes and lightly wrapped gauze around a frost bit foot. The temperatures were brutal and the warming station closed at 6:30am. We attempted to call 211 for assistance but unfortunately there was nowhere available for him. As a last resort we called the Milwaukee PD and had them transport him to Repairers of The Breech. There warming station was open until 8 am which gave him at least that extra hour.