Throwing the Homeless Out of the Hospital

No normal, well-to-do person will ever want to go to a hospital. But have you ever wondered if there are healthy, homeless people desperate enough to go there — not for medical treatment but just for a place to stay and some food to eat? Why go to the overcrowded homeless shelters if you can get more privacy and better food brought straight to your bed?

It was during my emergency medicine rotation that I encountered my first homeless person trying to abuse the system and get a free place to stay. He was an overweight, Caucasian male with beady eyes and glasses. He definitely was not healthy; he had psychiatric issues. I noticed the tremors in his hands — probably extrapyramidal symptoms due to the antipsychotics. He has already been discharged from the emergency room. And yet, he refused to leave.

Once he has been told that he must leave, he caused a ruckus by kicking the glass doors in his room, while shouting, “I wanna stay!” Three security guards quickly ran to him, surrounded him, and prevented him from further damaging hospital property. They brought him his clothes, hoping he would change out of his hospital garb and leave. It didn’t happen. They tried to reason with him. But how do you reason with crazy?

He then shouted, “Call the cops! Call the cops!” And proceeded to kick the  the glass doors again. The three guards wrestled him down onto the bed. One guard held each hand, while the last guard held down his legs. A hospital administrator called the police.

After a few minutes, five cops came into the hospital. FIVE! So that means there are a total of 3 guards and 5 cops for one overweight, crazy guy. I had no clue you needed this many manpower to kick someone out of the hospital. One of the cops, the highest ranking one, spoke directly with the patient.

“I give you two ways to leave the hospital. Feet first or head first. It’s your choice”

The homeless guy responded, “Where do I go?”

“It’s not my problem. But you cannot stay here.”

“I’m not going anywhere. Arrest me if you want.”

“I’m not going to arrest you because I know that is what you want. You just want a free place to stay. I’ll write you a summon for disorderly conduct and you’ll have to show up in court.” (I wonder if the summon holds any real threat to the homeless guy. He probably won’t show up and he doesn’t even have money to pay the fine. They won’t throw him in jail because that means he’s getting free room and meals — all from taxpayers’ expense. He is essentially judgment proof.)

“I’m not going anywhere. I’m suicidal. I’m going to kill myself.”

“Do you have family members? A mother you can stay with?


“Alright. What’s her number?”

He says some number and another cops write them down.

“Where does she live?”

“She’s in Spain.”

Basically, the homeless guy has no one he can rely on. He has no family members and no friends. He has no money. And he’s crazy.

The hospital don’t want him to stay. The cops don’t want him in jail. They don’t even want him wandering the streets. They want him on a bus or on a cab going to somewhere else … as long as it is away from town.

The town where the hospital’s at is very wealthy, with a median family income in the six-figures. I’ve wondered why I never see any homeless people in the area, even though it is close to one of the largest slums in the US. My friend said that money is being poured into the police force to expel the homeless from the town. And from what I have seen, I have to agree with him.

The homeless guy then proceeded to change into his own clothes. And when he was only half-way changed (butt-naked), with only a shirt on, be began to bang his head on the drawer. The guards had already stepped out for a moment. So the police had to wrestled a half-naked, overweight, crazy guy onto the bed. I do not envy their work at all.

The guards came back and put the pants on the guy. And after a while of struggling and saying he’s going to kill himself, he left on his own. I thought they would drag him out of the hospital kicking and screaming, but it didn’t happen.

“I Feel Bad for the Homeless, as Long as They’re Not in My Backyard”

It was very fitting that I stumbled across a documentary about the homeless a few days later: Tent City U.S.A. It is about a community of homeless people in Nashville, Tennessee. It showed how they’re trying to survive on the fringe of society, by setting up their own little community. One of the biggest challenges they faced was finding a place to set up Tent City after the old one has been washed away by a flood.

They did manage to find a place on someone’s private property outside of Nashville to set up Tent City. It was 120 acres of land, which was big enough to isolate the homeless community from the rest of the town. But once the residents heard of the additional 100 or so homeless people moving into the area, they began to protest. And protest. And protest …

The original plan to was stay on the private property for 6 months. But Tent City moved after 1 month.

If you ask anyone if it is good to help the homeless … chance are, she would agree. Now if you ask the same person if it is good to have the homeless come to her town or her house for help … chances are, she would disagree.

Truth be told, I would probably feel the same way. I shouldn’t, but I do.

Why do I bring up this documentary? Because by watching the film, it helped shaped the course of my future.

How the Homeless Persuaded Me to Pursue My Medical License

As a fourth year medical student, I am at the crossroads. I really have one main question:

Should I get my medical license?

I can go either way.

Why I do not need my license.

I’m really having second doubts if I want to open my practice and see patients. It is not because I hate medicine, or because I hate dealing with people. They’re both ok.

I do have a problem the medical environment though. I really hate how medicine is so regulated. Lawyers got their say. Insurance companies got their say. Federal government got their say. State government got their say. Accreditation boards got their say. What about doctors? And what about patients? When are they going to get their say?

And I hate how much money it takes to become a board-certified, licensed physician — fees for college applications, fees for college, fees for MCAT, fees for the medical school applications, fees for medical school, fees for licensing exams, fees for residency applications, fees for medical license applications, fees for CME credits, fees to renewing the license, fees for board certification exams, fees for malpractice insurance, and more fees. Lemme tell you. People are bankrupting themselves to become a doctor. And don’t be surprised when you see doctors defaulting on their loans in the future. Being a doctor is the most expensive and most regulated profession in the world!

And I’m still debating if I really want to torture myself and go through residency. Residency teaches you how to be a good in-patient physician — how to become a cog in the hospital machine. It won’t teach me how to be a successful out-patient doctor. At the very least, I’ll get paid. But I’ll have to work my butt off and endure through the grind.

On the flip side, the patients are bankrupting themselves just to get adequate medical care! You know it is a broken system when a trip to the ER can cost several thousands dollars. Medical bills are the biggest cause of bankruptcies in the US.

I would love to be part of a biotech start-up. Instead of being confined an ancient, over-regulated, and broken system, I can become a pioneer and pave the way to a brighter future.

Why I should get my medical license.

But then I remembered that it was God who got me here. If I think about it, I don’t think I really belonged in medical school — especially with my background. But I did make a promise to Him that I was going to give medical care to the needy.

You wanna know what helped me remember my promise? Watching Tent City U.S.A.

I saw how each homeless person was a unique person — who actively wanted to belong to part of a community, instead of being thrown to the side as an outcast. Each of them had hopes, wants, and dreams. Each of them is a person that is uniquely created by God.

The government can’t take care of you. (In the film, the government kept giving phony excuses why Tent City had to move away. But it never gave an answer as to where they can move to.) Businesses can’t take care of you. Their goal is to take care of themselves.

A lot of the humanitarian works are done by small, religious organizations. For example, the people taking care of Tent City were from the local church. No one else cared about the poor. And I thought …

If I was in Nashville, I would definitely partner up with that church. I would offer to see the homeless for free, if the church is willing to provide a room and medical supplies.

Now I know why I delved into business headfirst during medical school. Now I know why I spent so much time and effort into learning about setting up a money-making business, such as this website. I promised God that if my business brings in at least $50,000 a year, I will give free medical care to the homeless. (Since my promise is now out in the public, feel free to keep me accountable to it.)

I know that in the future, my business will bring in so much more than a meager $50,000 per year. So I am more than prepared to treat the people that no one wants to see. I will get my medical license — not because I need it to make a living. But because I will need it to help others live.

So now, it is up to God to get me into and through residency. I’m just in it for the ride.

For more medical school stories, visit the About Alex section and look for “Blast from the Past (Stories of My Medical School Days).”


  1. Cang Dang says:

    I agree with you, Alex, on the harsh reality of how we deal with homeless, psychiatric people. I am a nursing student in my senior year, and during my rotation at the ER and the mental health facility, I witnessed the same thing: an African American guy was brought to the ER by police from a parking lot because he was having psychotic symptoms. The nurses and physicians recognized him because he had had many visits before. They treated him, opened the door and let him go, without caring where he’d go. Their job was done as soon as he was stabilized. I asked the nurse who I was working with, and she said, “He’ll come back. Our job is just to make sure he’s fine at the ER. We’re not responsible for whatever he does outside of the hospital.” It sucks. Yes, I know. But I’ve gone this far, and I’m still working on my way to medical school. I do not think I’ll change my major or give up my career because of the way healthcare system functions. You’re the one who makes the best decision; I hope you’ll finally come up with a fine one. Good luck!

    • Alex Ding says:

      Thanks Cang.

      I’m still debating as to what my final decision will be. Do I get my license or not?

      It’s good to see that you are very dedicated to medicine. Either as a nurse or a doctor, you’ll do a lot for your patients. I can tell.

  2. On television and the movies we get use to seeing unrealistic expectations from doctors. Unfortunately doctors can’t cure everything,
    and the sick do not have nice smiles and cheerful manners like the movies. Homelessness and mentally ill are ugly realities in
    America more than ever because we have a tendency to ignore things.

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