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Baptist Medical Center - Princeton Settles EMTALA Case

A Birmingham, Alabama, medical center that refused to accept the appropriate transfer of a 61-year-old woman, has agreed to settle allegations that it violated the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act. EMTALA requires hospitals with specialized capabilities-in this case a neurosurgeon-to accept transfers of patients who require those services. The patient, who was found to be unresponsive in her home, was initially taken to a facility that did not have the capability to treat her condition. The hospital diagnosed her with altered mental status caused by a change in brain function: she had a subdural hematoma and needed emergency surgery, which that hospital could not provide. When the ED physician called Baptist to make arrangements to transfer the patient to Baptist, Baptist transferred the call to its ED and the transferring physician was told that he needed to talk to the on-call neurosurgeon. The call was then forwarded to the Hospitalist, who repeated that he had to speak with the on-call neurosurgeon. The transferring ED physician was then connected to the neurosurgeon and explained the patient's condition. The neurosurgeon responded that it sounded like the patient was brain dead. The ED physician explained that she was not and that he had paralyzed her to intubate her for medical purposes. The neurosurgeon repeated that she sounded brain dead and refused the transfer. Before hanging up, the neurosurgeon said he would be willing to consult on the case, but not accept transfer of the patient to Baptist. The ED physician then transferred the patient to another hospital where she successfully underwent surgery and was released to a rehabilitation facility five days later. Baptist, after finding out about its refusal to accept this patient, ordered the neurosurgeon to call Baptist back and to accept the patient, which he did, but the patient had already been sent to another hospital. Baptist, on December 29, 2014, agreed to pay $40,000 to resolve allegations of an EMTALA violation investigated by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The maximum penalty for violating the so-called "patient dumping" law is $50,000 for a large hospital. Senior Counsel Sandra Sands represented OIG.

Action Details

  • Date:December 29, 2014
  • Enforcement Types:
    • CMP and Affirmative Exclusions