Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Patient Dumping - Cruel and Ugly

It has been in the news recently that a Nevada mental hospital has taken patients and put them on a bus with a one way ticket to a distant city to fend for themselves with no support structure. The report states that they have done this to one thousand five hundred patients. They have sent them to virtually every state. When these victims arrive, many times they have no money and have lost their medication. This is cruel, immoral, and I hope illegal. The people involved should serve jail time and lose all licenses for medical practice.

When I was very young, in the early fifties, we lived only a few miles from the state mental hospital. In those less sophisticated days it was more like a zoo filled with people that had varying degrees of medical problems. Inside the conditions were unsanitary. The staff was poorly trained. Care was haphazard at best. In the warm weather there were caged in areas where the patients could go outside and put their behavior problems on display for the general public. It was not unheard of for people to pack their families into the car and go park along the road where they could watch the "crazies" as an afternoons entertainment. Yes it was indeed sickening.

Starting in the sixties many felt long term institutional care deprived these people of their civil liberties. Lawyers went to court. Judges ruled. Patients were turned loose. They didn't consider it patient dumping then, but that is exactly what it was. They justified their actions by setting up out-patient care facilities to make sure those that needed them could get the drugs that kept them functional. Over time many of these ex-patients just disappeared into the cities and swelled the ranks of the homeless population. I suppose that living on the street was better to most of them than living in the terrible conditions in many of the old hospitals.

It might be time to re-examine those policies that put these people on the street. We have better drugs now. I like to think that patient care has become better and more sophisticated. The streets are a dangerous place to live. Personal care is non-existent.  Food is a sometimes thing. Winter nights can freeze them to death. Hot summer days can dehydrate them to death. We are a smarter and more caring population than we were back then. Maybe it is time to start over.

No comments:

Post a Comment