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Starr Regional Medical Center Agreed to Pay $100,000 f or Allegedly Violating Patient Dumping Statute by Failing to Perform an Adequate Medical Screening Examination and Stabilizing Treatment

On February 12, 2024, Starr Regional Medical Center (Starr), Athens, Tennessee, entered into a $100,000 settlement agreement with OIG. The settlement agreement resolves allegations that Starr violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) when it failed to perform an adequate medical screening examination or to stabilize a patient’s emergency medical condition. Specifically, on July 18, 2018, a female presented to Starr’s Emergency Department (ED) at Etowah at 5:32 p.m., complaining of low back pain, pelvic pain, hematuria, and pain at a level of 9 out of 10. The patient reported that she was not pregnant but had missed her last period. The ED doctor ordered a pregnancy test before the patient was to have a CT scan to rule out kidney stones. After a shift change, a new ED doctor took over the patient’s care. During that time, the pregnancy test results came in as positive, and the new ED doctor ordered an HCG test to determine the age of the fetus. The patient’s pain decreased to 8 out of 10 and later to 0 out of 10. When the patient and her companion expressed an interest in going home, she was discharged at 9:16 p.m. with a diagnosis of a UTI infection. Her discharge occurred before the HCG test results were available. Approximately 9 hours later, the patient gave birth in her car on the way to Starr Regional Medical Center Athens. The baby’s gestational age was 42 weeks. Starr failed to reevaluate the origin of the patient’s pain after it was confirmed that she was pregnant: she could have had an ectopic pregnancy or other pregnancy related complication. In addition, the ED physician never performed a physical exam to determine what the gestational age of the fetus might be. Senior Counsels Sandra Sands and Patrice Drew represented OIG.

Action Details

  • Date:February 12, 2024
  • Enforcement Types:
    • CMP and Affirmative Exclusions