Hospitals pay civil penalties for patient dumping

Two Florida hospitals agreed to pay a combined $83,000 in civil penalties this year for allegedly violating patient dumping statutes, according to the Office of Inspector General summaries released last week.

Florida's Northside Hospital in March agreed to pay $38,000 to settle its liability for civil monetary penalties. The OIG claimed that Northside failed to provide an appropriate medical screening examination and stabilizing treatment to a patient who presented to the emergency department with flu symptoms and a high fever. A triage nurse told the patient to go home and follow orders from his primary care provider. Two days later, the patient came back to the ED, was admitted to the ICU and then died due to H1N1, according to the OIG.

Meanwhile, Fort Lauderdale Hospital in February agreed to pay $45,000 after OIG alleged that it didn't provide appropriate medical screening examination and stabilizing treatment to a patient who presented to its ED. In that case, the patient was autistic and came to the ED after physically attacking his mother. The hospital didn't accept the patient's insurance and told the patient's mother to take the patient to another care facility. Another facility admitted the patient for six days for depression.

Under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), also known as the anti-patient dumping law, hospitals must provide care regardless of a patient's insurance or ability to pay. If the hospital can't stabilize the patient within its capacity, it should provide an appropriate transfer, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Among other hospital civil penalties this year revealed by OIG's summaries, Southern Maine Medical Center in Biddeford, Maine, agreed to pay $76,529.81 in March after self-disclosing that it employed an individual that should have been excluded from participation in federal healthcare programs. Additionally, Reid Hospital & Health Care Services in Richmond, Ind., agreed in February to pay $96,645.70 for allegedly using false records to secure payment of fake claims for Medicare services.

For more information:
- read the OIG summary
- see the CMS website on EMTALA

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