Area Hospitals Aren't Turning Patients Away - And Response (2)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

In regards to Erlanger’s new COO stating other hospitals turning patients away when they cannot pay, I am a nurse and I have worked at all three acute care hospitals in Chattanooga and I have never seen any of these facilities turn any patient away due to the fact of being “private pay.” 

Also, I have seen the hospital business office representative work with the patient and family with payment options on the hospital bill.  

Also, these hospitals accept Medicare reimbursement which means they are required to provide emergency treatment under EMTALA which helps prevent patient dumping in the first place. 

EMTALA is a federal law. I think when a COO of a large business makes a statement such as this, he should be able to back it up with facts. I would like to know where he got his facts from.

Melissa Lewis, RN 

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Contrary to Ms. Lewis’ assertions that patient dumping does not occur in Chattanooga, all she has to do is read front page headlines appearing less than a year ago in which a local non-profit hospital was under federal scrutiny for violating the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act – not once, but twice.  For violations classified as “immediate jeopardy” – the most severe of EMTALA violations.    

On both occasions, patients were “transferred” to Erlanger.  And investigators, working on behalf of the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, warned that “the deficiencies are so serious that they constitute an immediate threat to the health and safety of any individual who comes to your hospital with an emergency medical condition.” 

In addition to what has been publicly reported, my wife and I personally witnessed an incident in another ER in which an uninsured patient was stabilized, then quickly transported to Erlanger for “more detailed” testing and admission. 

While EMTALA laws are in place to help prevent patient dumping, it is naïve to assume this doesn’t happen in Chattanooga.  Particularly to Erlanger - the hospital where I work – now on track to provide more than $92 million in uncompensated care to local residents this year.   Coincidence?  I don’t think so.    

Mickey Milita

* * * 

I have worked in EMS for 20 + years in the Chattanooga area and yes all of the private run hospitals in a 100 mile radius dump on Erlanger. 

All hospital emergency rooms are required by law to stabilize a patient's emergency condition after that they can transfer to another hospital for continued care. 

I have transported patients from all the local hospital emergency rooms to Erlanger simply because of no insurance.  

Erlanger Hospital's indigent care cost is nearing $100 million for this budget year, show me another hospital in the area that has that size of lose due to indigent/self pay care.  Erlanger turns no one away for medical/trauma care and receives little to none support from Hamilton County. 

David Poteet, EMT-P

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