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Patient dumping still practiced today

Despite the passing of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) in 1986, patient dumping is still practiced all over the United States.

Patient dumping is:

  • The denial of emergency medical evaluation, treatment and stabilization based on the inability to pay for services
  • The transfer of a person presenting to an emergency room to another hospital without any triage or treatment because of a lack of medical coverage or payment options
  • Inadequate treatment time and lack of appropriate discharge planning before the release of a patient without suitable housing

Medical institution responsibilities

The passage of EMTALA gives hospitals that participate in the Medicare program some responsibilities to fulfill if they want to continue accepting the insurance's reimbursement and avoid fines.

Under the act, hospitals must:

  • Give every person seeking emergency department care an exam, treatment and stabilization of any medical conditions
  • Provide emergency stabilization before transferring a patient to another facility
  • Only transport a patient before stabilization if the patient's condition is beyond the treatment capability of the hospital
  • The hospital must keep an adequate roster of on-call physicians in a variety of specializations to meet the needs of emergency department workload

Patient rights

All persons coming to a hospital emergency room for diagnosis and treatment have rights under EMTALA. One possible reason that facilities still dump patients out on bus stops and the streets is the need for medical institutions to keep costs down and manage limited resources. That, however, is no excuse to break the law and violate ethical standards.

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