CMS settles patient dumping disputes with hospitals

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has settled patient dumping cases with two hospitals since the first of the year, according to information posted this week on the agency's  website.

On Feb. 22, Sacred Heart Hospital in Illinois agreed to pay $50,000 to settle claims that it violated the patient dumping statute by failing to medically screen a 63-year old woman who was not breathing when she arrived at the emergency department, according to the Office of Inspector General.

The settlement states Sacred Heart instead called the Chicago Fire Department, which transferred the patient to another hospital where she was pronounced dead.

That followed a $50,000 settlement reached with Holmes Regional Medical Center on Jan. 28, according to the CMS data. The patient dumping allegations involved a 30-year-old pregnant woman who became unresponsive after arriving at the Florida hospital's ED experiencing chest pains.

The OIG claimed Holmes Regional failed to appropriately examine and stabilize the patient, who died along with her baby.

The hospitals did not admit liability, but their settlements represent potential violations of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTLA).

Such violations usually involve hospitals transferring or denying care to homeless and uninsured patients, but recent news reports show healthcare providers also are dumping mentally ill patients. For instance, Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Nevada is now under federal and state investigations for discharging a mentally ill man by bus to California with no housing or care arrangements, The Sacramento Bee reported.

Last month, CMS investigators said Colorado's Littleton Adventist Hospital failed to properly screen patients for psychiatric problems in its emergency room and may have sent some of them to jail, detox or other medical facilities.

For more:
- here's the new CMS info
- read The Sacramento Bee article