Two New York hospitals are the latest facilities to settle charges that they "dumped" patients for economic reasons in violation of federal law.
In Syracuse, N.Y., 490-bed Crouse Hospital paid a $99,000 civil monetary penalty, while 239-bed Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, N.Y., agreed to an $89,143 penalty. Neither hospital admitted any wrongdoing.
The settlements bring to at least four the number of hospitals that have settled patient dumping allegations this year. The HHS' inspector general's office signed off on these latest settlements in August. MODERN HEALTHCARE obtained copies of them last week under the federal Freedom of Information Act.
Besides paying the fines, both hospitals had to publish newspaper advertisements reminding residents that they will be cared for in the hospitals' emergency rooms, regardless of their ability to pay.
Under a 1986 federal law, hospitals are required to provide basic medical screenings to emergency patients. They also are prohibited from transferring emergency patients with unstable medical conditions or women in labor to other facilities for economic reasons.
In the case of Samaritan, the inspector general's office said the hospital failed to provide appropriate medical screenings on three separate occasions in 1995.
In its settlement, Samaritan said it disagreed with the conclusions reached by the inspector general's office.
"We chose to work toward a settlement rather than continue the costly administrative fight," a spokesman said.
The hospital will pay its fine over two years, so the total penalty includes interest.
Under federal law, the maximum civil monetary penalty that can be imposed on a hospital accused of illegal patient dumping is $50,000 per violation.
In the case of Crouse Hospital, the inspector general's office investigated a number of patient allegations. It concluded that some emergency patients failed to receive appropriate medical screenings from Dec. 17, 1994, to June 3, 1995.
"Based on our investigation, Crouse Hospital does not believe that any of the cases cited by the office of the inspector general entailed any violation," said Bob Allen, a hospital spokesman.