Ravenswood Hospital Medical Centerin Chicago last month settled federal "patient dumping" charges by paying $40,000 to HHS' inspector general's office in a case that attracted national attention in the spring of 1998 (March 15, p.4).
The incident centered on the failure of Ravenswood's emergency room staff to treat a severely wounded 15-year-old boy bleeding just outside the hospital's doors. On May 16, 1998, friends of Christopher Sercye, who had been shot while playing basketball nearby, carried him to within 35 feet of the hospital's emergency room. Police called an ambulance, but ER staff, citing hospital policy, refused to leave the hospital's grounds to treat Sercye. He was eventually carried into the hospital by a police officer, but he died of his wounds hours later that day in the hospital's ER.
Ravenswood, which faced intense local and national criticism for its action, later changed its ER policy.
The 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act prohibits patient dumping and the denial of basic medical screenings, treatment and appropriate transfers of patients for economic reasons. Compliance with the act is a condition of participation in Medicare and Medicaid.
Unlike most other hospitals facing patient dumping charges, Ravenswood was threatened with exclusion from Medicare and Medicaid because of the event.
The settlement resolves those issues and compels the hospital to establish a compliance policy and publicly advertise the universal availability of its emergency room.
The Ravenswood case was the most recent patient dumping settlement announced by the inspector general's office. Other cases listed below were obtained through federal Freedom of Information Act requests. The hospitals did not admit violation of federal laws in any of the settlements.