Three Georgia hospitals have agreed to pay thousands of dollars in fines to settle charges that they violated the federal "patient-dumping" law.
The 1986 law bars hospitals from transferring medically unstable patients or patients in labor to other hospitals for economic reasons. It also requires hospitals to provide basic medical screenings to all emergency patients.
MODERN HEALTHCARE obtained copies of the three settlements last week under the federal Freedom of Information Act. The agreements bring to eight the total number of patient-dumping cases settled by hospitals this year, according to MODERN HEALTHCARE records.
The largest of the three Georgia set-tlements involved 77-bed Walton Medical Center in Monroe, Ga., which agreed to pay HHS $30,000 to resolve charges that it failed to provide an appropriate medical screening to an emergency department patient in December 1991. HHS' inspector general's office signed the Walton settlement on Aug. 29.
Meanwhile, 55-bed Taylor Regional Hospital in Hawkinsville, Ga., agreed to pay HHS $12,000 to settle charges that it failed to provide an appropriate medical screening to an emergency department patient in November 1992. HHS' inspector general's office signed the Taylor settlement on Aug. 4.
And 45-bed Ridgecrest Hospital in Clayton, Ga., agreed to pay a $10,000 fine to settle charges that it didn't provide a medical screening to an emergency department patient in July 1991. HHS' inspector general's office signed the Ridgecrest settlement on Aug. 29.
In addition to the civil monetary penalties assessed in each case, all three Georgia hospitals must take out advertisements in their local newspapers as a condition of resolving the patient-dumping charges. In the ads, each hospital must proclaim that its emergency department is open to all patients regardless of their ability to pay (See box).
Under the settlements, the hospitals admit to no violations of the federal patient-dumping law.