The callous and inhumane dislocation of migrants just lately perpetrated by governors of the states of Florida and Texas jogged my memory of an equally disdainful and appalling tactic utilized by healthcare staff because the Sixties: “Greyhound remedy.”
Greyhound remedy refers to makes an attempt by healthcare staff and directors to take away undesirable sufferers from emergency rooms, hospitals, and different kinds of amenities by offering them one-way tickets on a Greyhound bus to a different far-away location, hoping they’ll by no means return. Among the sufferers are troublemakers and rabble-rousers identified to frequent emergency departments, however the majority are destitute, homeless, or mentally ailing — or all three — and deserve our compassion.
Greyhound remedy remains to be in play in sure medical and mental-health circles. Between 2013 and 2018, a state-run psychiatric hospital in Nevada routinely bused sufferers to locations they’d by no means been or had no ties to, offering only some days of meals rations and medicine for the journey. A category-action lawsuit was filed towards the hospital on behalf of roughly 1,500 sufferers that have been solid off, and a Las Vegas jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the sufferers, awarding every particular person $250,000 for the hospital’s egregious therapy.
A much more widespread however no much less derisive observe is affected person “dumping” — discharging uninsured and undesirable sufferers to the road or transferring them to a different facility. Affected person dumping was — and nonetheless is — such an enormous drawback that it actually has required an act of Congress to cease it: the federal anti-dumping regulation handed in 1986 often known as the Emergency Medical Therapy and Lively Labor Act (EMTALA).
Beneath EMTALA, sufferers have to be medically screened and stabilized previous to discharge or switch. If a hospital is unable to stabilize a affected person given its sources, or if the affected person requests, a switch could also be made with the consent of the receiving hospital.
Greyhound remedy, dumping, and the busing of migrant staff have their roots within the “Freedom Riders.” Freedom Riders have been civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into segregated southern states in 1961 to problem Jim Crow legal guidelines that remained in drive regardless of Supreme Court docket selections that outlawed segregation in faculties and public buses and depots.
To embarrass Northern liberals and humiliate Black folks, southern White Residents’ Councils and different teams countered the Freedom Riders. “Reverse Freedom Riders” issued Black folks one-way tickets to northern cities with false guarantees of jobs, housing, and higher lives. The Kennedy White Home obtained mail from leaders within the focused states asking the federal authorities to intervene within the merciless trafficking of individuals of colour.
The previous conduct of bigots is remarkably much like the present conduct of the governors of Florida and Texas. As one columnist noticed, the 2 governors merely adopted an outdated playbook by transport the migrants North. The governors weren’t intelligent. They have been racist. Not less than officers in Arizona coordinated their efforts to relocate migrants.
The latest show of vindictiveness proven by the governors can’t be attributed to implicit bias. Implicit bias originates in prejudices that unknowingly affect how individuals are handled, particularly minorities. Nonetheless, there may be nothing unknown or unconscious within the minds of those that orchestrate and approve the trafficking of weak populations.
Exploiting folks’s distress for political achieve is shameful and no extra acceptable than sending sufferers on dead-end journeys. Kennedy characterised the Reverse Freedom Rides as “a somewhat low-cost train.” He envisioned that authorities contractors would deal with their staff with out regard to their race, creed, colour, or nationwide origin. Should not the identical maintain true for well being professionals?
The notion of equal medical therapy dates again to Hippocrates. He said: “Into no matter properties I’m going, I’ll enter them for the good thing about the sick … whether or not they’re free males or slaves.” In lots of US medical faculties, it has change into customary for incoming medical college students to write down and recite their very own variations of the Hippocratic Oath. Lots of the variants embody language that particularly prohibits discrimination or bias within the observe of medication.
I’ve usually questioned concerning the mind-set of healthcare suppliers who approve of one-way journey as an answer to homelessness, drug habit, and psychological sickness. Well being officers in Nevada strung collectively a skinny veil of excuses, starting from denial to arguing that they have been sending sufferers on to relations and different psychological well being amenities — presumably true in just a few instances however totally false in a majority of them. Clearly, there was a blatant disregard for human rights fueled by prejudice and stigma towards the mentally ailing.
Nevada shouldn’t be alone in its brazen therapy of psychiatric sufferers — nor do southern states personal the unique rights to export its residents. New York Metropolis secretly sends the homeless to Hawaii and different states. Solely in uncommon cases does journey remedy purpose to be genuinely therapeutic.
For instance, Hawaii has tried to reunite homeless folks with kin on the mainland, so-called airplane remedy. However as a result of excessive value of operating such a program and the truth that roughly one-third of Hawaii’s inhabitants is transient or from out of state, the variety of needy individuals who truly profit could be very small.
The American Medical Affiliation is worried about “scope creep” that threatens affected person security, ie, the infusion of superior observe suppliers into medical observe. I am extra involved concerning the influence of crass politics. Anybody — politician, supplier, or healthcare administrator — who makes use of human beings as pawns for leverage or private achieve, or displaces or disrupts their medical therapy for prejudiced causes, needs to be guided via severe self-reflection round how racism has entered their lives and, extra importantly, affected the lives of harmless folks and deprived sufferers.
Politics, whether or not contained in the Capitol or the hospital C-suite, ought to by no means take priority over folks. Leaders and caregivers should always remember the welcoming inscription engraved on the bottom of the Statue of Liberty — “give me your drained your poor” — and particularly the phrases that observe: “Ship these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. “
Migrants, like a lot of our sufferers, are overwhelmed by life’s circumstances. We’re, and at all times have been, a nation that opens its arms to weak folks somewhat than consigns them to a vacation spot far worse than the place their journey started.
Arthur Lazarus, MD, MBA, is a psychiatrist.
This publish appeared on KevinMD.