Man without stable housing tests positive for COVID-19, is ejected from Bloomington hospital
An Owen County man who reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 was forcibly removed from IU Health Bloomington Hospital March 22 after the hospital told the man he was no longer contagious.
Defense attorney Katharine Liell, who is not representing the man but is a longtime friend acting as a spokesperson, said the patient spent seven days at the hospital being treated for COVID-19. She said the patient was temporarily experiencing homelessness and wasn’t prepared to find shelter when he left the hospital.
In a video of the incident posted by the Bloomingtonian, the patient is laying in bed when he’s told he can’t stay at the hospital. Someone off-camera tells him to get up.
“Drag me,” the man says in the video. “I’m not getting up.”
Liell said the patient told her as many as six IU Health security officers helped remove him. In the video, the man says he has red marks on his arm from being grabbed by the officers.
“You should be treated with dignity and respect and humanity regardless of where you come from or where you are going,” Liell said.
IU Health said in a statement the patient had no symptoms for three days and maintained isolation for seven days in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A spokesperson from IU Health could not confirm the man tested positive for COVID-19 due to the federal law restricting release of medical information.
Liell said the patient told her he still had a cough and shortness of breath when he was removed from the hospital. She said the man was concerned he was still contagious to others.
Monroe County had at least 22 cases of the coronavirus as of Sunday morning. Mayor John Hamilton said in a videoconference Friday that the Monroe County Health Department is preparing for more cases of the virus.
According to the CDC, the length of time someone with the coronavirus is actively sick can vary, so the decision to release someone from isolation is made case-by-case. However, the patient must meet these requirements: not having a fever without using medications that reduce fever, testing negative for COVID-19 twice and no longer showing symptoms such as a cough.
IU Health said in its statement that the patient was left in a “personal vehicle” on the way to a “location agreed upon by the provider.” Liell said the man has since been able to find temporary shelter.
Vauhxx Booker, chair of the Monroe County Affordable Housing Advisory Commission and member of the county’s human rights commission, posted about the incident on Facebook. He wrote in the March 22 post he was outraged IU Health Bloomington would forcibly remove a patient that didn’t have stable housing and tested positive for COVID-19.
Booker, 36, said it’s common to see people who are dealing with housing instability ejected from IU Health Bloomington. Booker has worked as a rehabilitation specialist for people dealing with mental illnesses, addiction and homelessness. Booker also managed Friend’s Place, an emergency homeless shelter.
He said he understood the hospital staff was put in a stressful situation, but he has never seen someone physically removed from a hospital before this. He said this isn’t just about someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
“He’s a human being in a time of crisis, and the hospital should be compassionate,” Booker said.