It seems that recent efforts by a Warming Center volunteer to get information published in a local paper asserting that our local Mercy Medical Center is responsible for “patient dumping” has been thwarted. Patient dumping is a term used to describe a hospital’s practice of discharging homeless patients without appropriate provisions for their follow-up care: patient dumping is illegal. Given this, it is important to find out the truth, but our local News Review seems uninterested in finding out what that is.
One recent horror story about patient dumping involves a lawsuit by the state of California against a Nevada hospital for providing bus tickets for homeless discharged patients. The suit alleges that the Nevada hospital does this to avoid any legal responsibility for insuring that there are services and care available for the patients needed aftercare. Luckily the assertion against our local hospital does not claim this, however if the Warming Center volunteer’s story is accurate, his claims are bad enough. Here is what the WC volunteer claims happened:
“A volunteer’s letter to the NR regarding patient dumping: I find it ironic that this happened when our city council believes there are so many resources for our homeless – :
They told me they would include the fact that it was security from the ER who called the WC but other than that, it is as follows:”*
Letter to Editor by above volunteer, Gary Harris:
“During the recent cold spell when temperatures dropped into the teens and people were advised to stay home, I was volunteering at the Homeless Coalition’s warmingcenter to help provide a safe, warm place out of the weather for those without a home. I frequently work the overnight shift and it is often fairly quiet; the only sound being the snoring.
But on one particular night there was an interruption. A phone call was received from Mercy Medical Center; they requested that one of our volunteers leave the warming center and pick up a patient who they were intent on releasing. When they were informed that there were not sufficient volunteers on site during those hours to pick up patients from Mercy, Mercy proceed to drop the person off at the center themselves.
It was at 4am on a dangerously cold night that Mercy Medical Center released a patient who could not eat, walk, or even use a bathroom without a significant level of assistance. The person in question arrived without pants and had only a urine soaked blanket with which to stay warm. Warming center volunteers are not trained or prepared to provide this level of care for people who should be in a hospital setting.
Leaving a dog out in this weather would be felony level cruelty yet Mercy is releasing severely impaired patients. The term for this is “patient dumping” and beyond being shockingly cruel, Mercy might be interested in knowing that it is a legal liability as other hospitals have only learned through legal action.”*
Now if this is true, everyone in our community should be concerned. However our concern should not be limited to Mercy doing the right thing. Our concern needs to focus on why we expect Mercy to house the homeless, clothe the naked, and feed the hungry when that is not their job. Although Mercy Medical Center is a Catholic charity, it is a medical facility, not a provider of social services to this extent. Because of it being a non-profit charity, we might have higher expectations in cases like these, but we need to discuss why this facility may have had no other option but to just send this homeless man on his way even though he was not appropriately dressed or seeming to be able to care for himself. As horrible as this might sound, Mercy may have had no legal obligation or right but to do what they did.
Now whether their actions meet the community standards we have for basic decency or the mission of their non-profit charity is still something that needs to be address regardless of the legality of their actions, if this side of the story is all there is to it. However we owe Mercy the courtesy of the benefit of the doubt until we know everyone’s take on what happened in this particular case.
It seems that efforts by the volunteer, Gary Harris attempted to get his above letter to the editor published in the News Review are not going to be successful. Just yesterday, he posted on the Occupy Roseburg Facebook page, the News Review’s Editor, Vicki Menard’s reject letter, set out here:
It was good to talk to you earlier this week. Upon consulting with my publisher, I’m afraid we will not be able to publish your letter, as it’s written. Since you don’t know for certain what occurred at Mercy or the decisions they made, you can’t make assumptions about the situation. I know you saw a man who was unable to help himself in many ways, and something clearly went wrong that night. It’s fortunate he was helped by you and the caring volunteers at the warming center. But without knowing Mercy’s side of the story, we can’t publish the letter.
345 N.E. Winchester St.
Roseburg, OR 97470
It is not too hard to understand the concerns that the News Review had with the actual content of the WC volunteer’s letter, but we should all be concerned about what appears to be their lack of willingness to investigate the allegation themselves. After all, is that not what the press is all about?
Sometimes it is challenging for zealous advocates, including those involved with CEA, to limit the assumptions and rhetoric and stick with the facts, but facts are critical to determining the truth. Our community deserves to know the truth, but more importantly we deserve to know the policies and procedures that our local community hospital follows when dealing with the type of situation described by the volunteer. It is the role of the 4th estate (the press) to find the truth for the rest of us; otherwise what value do they have in our community? It is the role of all of us to find out what Mercy’s policies and procedures in such matters. CEA challenges the WC volunteers, Occupy Roseburg and other concerned citizens to contact Mercy Medical Center about this issue. CEA also challenges the News Review to find out the facts and report them to the rest of us.
*Each of these was taken from the Occupy Roseburg Facebook page. We claim no accuracy or truthfulness regarding their content, but we have lifted out the information directly from the Occupy Roseburg Facebook page and surrounded those portions in quotations.