About one-third of the nation’s hospitals are guilty of Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) violations which put patients at risk for serious injuries or death. Hospitals that receive payments from Medicare or Medicaid are required to treat patients in emergency rooms regardless of injury, race, or ability to pay. Hospitals that fail to provide medical treatment to those in need are negligent in their duties under the law.
The Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act
Enacted into law in 1986, the EMTALA requires hospitals to provide prompt medical screening to patients within emergency medical facilities. The law also extends coverage within labor and delivery units as well as psychiatric hospitals.
Hospitals are required to provide prompt screening to determine the extent of injuries and perform any necessary tests to identify specific causes of a patient’s symptoms. Hospitals are required to utilize any available screening tools and machinery to perform these tests.
The Consequences of Violating EMTALA
Patients are suffering, and dying, as a result of negligence within hospital emergency rooms. Regardless of insurance, income, age, race, etc., patients have rights under the law to receive emergency medical treatment. Each year, there are hundreds of violations across the country.
Over the past decade, 4,300 violations were recorded against 1,682 hospitals. This represents roughly 1/3 of all the hospitals in the country. Smaller hospitals with less than 100 beds are the most common violators and from January 2016 to March 2018, EMTALA violations cost at least 34 patients their lives.
Common EMTALA Violations
Hospitals may fail to properly stabilize patients suffering emergency medical conditions including heart attacks, strokes, broken bones, deep lacerations, etc.
Hospitals and attending hospitalists may also fail to transfer a patient to another facility when they are unable to appropriately stabilize patients. In some cases when a transfer is arranged, they may fail to provide treatments that minimize risks associated with the transfer or fail to receive consent for the transfer from the receiving facility. They may also fail to make ambulances and other resources available so that the patient can be safely transported to the receiving facility.
Hospitals must also maintain thorough logs of all patients who enter the emergency department. When hospitals fail to maintain accurate records, they negligently place patient health and safety at risk and deliberately attempt to hide their liability for any injuries or deaths that occur as a result of their actions.