Columbia JFK Medical Center in Atlantis, Fla., has agreed to pay a $10,000 fine to settle charges that it violated the federal patient "dumping" law by discharging an emergency patient without an adequate medical screening.
The 569-bed hospital was one of three to recently settle patient dumping allegations. The others are 57-bed Mizell Memorial Hospital in Opp, Ala., and 24-bed Calhoun Memorial Hospital in Arlington, Ga.
The 1986 dumping law bars hospitals from transferring medically unstable patients or women in labor to other hospitals for economic reasons. It also requires hospitals to provide basic medical screenings to patients who show up in their emergency departments.
HHS' inspector general's office accused Columbia JFK of failing to provide an appropriate medical screening to an emergency department patient in January 1995-a month before Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. announced it was acquiring the former not-for-profit hospital. The parties completed the $210 million deal in July 1995.
HHS made similar allegations against Mizell for an emergency room incident that occurred in February 1993, and against Calhoun, for two incidents that occurred in October 1992.
Mizell and Calhoun agreed to pay $15,000 and $5,000 civil monetary penalties, respectively, to resolve the government's allegations.
And, although none of the three hospitals admitted to any liability, they all agreed to run a series of newspaper advertisements regarding their open emergency room treatment policies and acceptance of all Medicare and Medicaid patients.
HHS signed all three settlements in June. MODERN HEALTHCARE obtained copies of the settlements last week under the federal Freedom of Information Act.