Emergency doctor group slams U of Chicago's ED diversion plan

Usually, when emergency physicians discuss EMTALA, they're fretting over the cost imposed by uninsured patients who may not have needed their help in the first place. But that doesn't mean they aren't willing to go to bat if they're concerned a hospital is engaging in patient dumping, it seems.

The country's largest emergency physician group, the American College of Emergency Physicians, has gone forward this week with a very public attack on a new emergency department diversion program recently launched at the University of Chicago Medical Center. The group contends that the U of Chicago's plans, which involve routing patients with non-urgent injuries and illnesses to community hospitals and clinics, come "dangerously close" to violating EMTALA.

EMTALA, as most readers know, is a federal law requiring hospitals to provide emergency care for those in need, regardless of insurance or immigration status. The U of Chicago's leaders say that they're not violating this law, as it's legal to transfer patients to other facilities without treating them. They also note that 40 percent of the 80,000 patients who go to its ED aren't in need of emergency care.

However, the facility has taken a lot of heat since coverage appeared detailing the experience of 12-year-old pit-bull victim Dontae Adams, who was sent home after outpatient screening. Dontae's mother has alleged that the hospital refused further treatment because it didn't want to accept her Medicaid coverage.

To learn more about this story:
- read this Chicago Tribune article

Related Articles:
Case study: TN ED diversion program works with clinics
U of Chicago institutes triage in ED
Hospitals working to avoid non-emergency ED care
Atlanta hospitals screen out non-emergent ED patients