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Psychiatric hospital admits to sending patient on 15-hour bus trip

When New Mexico patients are admitted to a psychiatric hospital, they expect to be treated for their illness and kept out of harm's way. However, in cases of hospital negligence, patients are sometimes involuntarily placed in dangerous situations.

A mental hospital came under fire after it discharged a patient who was likely being treated for schizophrenia and depression. Hospital staff allegedly gave the patient a ticket for a 15-hour bus ride and a three-day supply of medications. Alone and in an unknown city, the patient found his way to a homeless shelter.

During a hearing called by that state's legislators, the state's health and human services director admitted to the mistake but added that state hospitals do not make a habit of busing patients to other states. He promised that a hospital administrator will sign off on all patient releases in the future, and the hospital staff member who released that patient will be disciplined.

The patient allegedly told the homeless shelter that four other patients were discharged in a similar manner. The state reported that several mental health facilities have sent their patients across state borders, although in most cases the patients were allegedly returning to their homes. In relation to the patient's claim, the director could not confirm the releases, but did not entirely dismiss them either. He did point out that the hospitals have a limited capacity for the number of patients they could help.

The homeless shelter is no longer in touch with the man who was improperly discharged and his whereabouts appear to be unknown. Without access to proper treatment, the patient may be struggling with their mental illness, putting themselves and possibly others at risk. Thankfully, victims of hospital negligence can seek compensation for any injuries and hold hospital accountable for their actions.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, "Vegas mental hospital goofed on patient's discharge to Sacramento, official concedes," Cynthia Hubert, March 15, 2013

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