Washington residents expect to be treated with respect and dignity while they are being seen in the hospital. Unfortunately for many, the opposite proves to be true. A form of medical neglect called “patient dumping” is becoming more commonplace in hospitals across Washington State. 

Patient dumping, according to Healthcare Dive, occurs when a hospital or medical facility discharges a patient before he or she is medically stable. Often, patients are left to fend for themselves at bus stops or homeless shelters. Those who are “dumped” are usually suffering from a mental health condition, homeless or undocumented immigrants – those usually uninsured and without the ability to pay. 

KUOW News and Information reports that there has been an increase lately in Washington nursing homes and group homes involuntarily discharging residents after they go to the hospital for a medical emergency or surgical procedure and refusing to readmit them. The state’s long-term care ombudsman says that “nine times out of 10,” the facility will not take these patients back due to disruptive behavioral challenges. 

It is not difficult to imagine the harm that can come to patients who are discharged by the hospital when they are still sick or suffering, or when they are confused and unable to care for themselves and their former caregivers will not readmit them. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act of 1986 is meant to ensure patients who lack the ability to pay receive stabilizing care in a medical emergency and are not discharged in conditions that would adversely affect their health. Hospitals face penalties for violating this law. Additionally, there is a two-year statute of limitations for those who were harmed by patient dumping to sue the facility that unjustly discharged them.