Patient dumping represents one of the darker sides of the medical profession. Physicians take the Hippocratic Oath promising they “will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required.” Unfortunately, hospital administrators don’t take the same oath. These days many seem to care more about the hospital’s financial health rather than the health of their patients. Nowhere is this more evident than with patients who lack insurance.
Congress passed the EMTALA law in 1986. (EMTALA stands for the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act.) In simple terms, the law prohibits “patient dumping.” Hospitals must stabilize patients seeking emergency treatment if they have the ability to do so. Many hospitals attempt to circumvent the law resulting in a pandemic of EMTALA claims.
Sometimes it patients that complain. Other times it is local public hospitals that see a sudden influx of patients with no insurance. California believes that some hospitals in Nevada are deliberately sending critically ill patients to big cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles.
According to whistleblower retaliation complaint filed in a western Pennsylvania federal court last week, Marie Gillispie was an acute care administrator at Southwest Regional Medical Center, a for-profit hospital in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. She claims she was fired after seeking to report EMTALA patient dumping claims to the state health department.
In one instance, she claims a pregnant woman was refused treatment and referred to another hospital. When Gillispie wanted to report the violation, she says that the hospital’s CEO told her no. When Gillispie complained, the CEO replied that if she reported the violation, the Department of Health “would be on us like flies on shit.”
Ultimately, Gillispie was fired after insisting that this and other violations be reported. According to a press report, Gillispie is seeking just $75,000. We don’t know all the details of her case but her demand seems low. Unfortunately, the patients who received poor care aren’t represented. They are entitled to make EMTALA claims as well.
Patient dumping is hard to prove because many hospital workers and physicians fear for their jobs. Luckily, whistleblowers are protected to state and federal whistleblower anti-retaliation laws.
Presently we represent a patient in Texas suffering injuries from poor and denied treatment. We suspect that there are hundreds more patients that receive poor or no treatment simply because they are uninsured. Because almost every hospital accepts Medicaid or Medicare, violations of the EMTALA law may also be violations of the federal False Claims Act.
The false claims law allows defendants to be penalized up to $11,000 for each false claim they present. Each time a hospital bills the Medicare program, the hospital certifies that it is complying with a number of healthcare laws including EMTALA. That means hospitals that certify thousands of bills and collect millions from Medicare may be liable for big penalties under the false claims act. Congress doesn’t want hospitals to collect from Medicare while turning away poor and indigent patients.
If you were illegally denied emergency treatment and believe you have an EMTALA claim, please give us a call. We also want to speak with current or former employees of Tenet Healthcare and other “for profit” hospitals that have information about patient dumping.
Whistleblowers under the false claims act are entitled to receive up to 30% of whatever the government collects from healthcare providers under this program. (The average award is 20%). Tenet has previously paid $900 million in 2006 and $42 million last year to settle other Medicare fraud claims under the false claims act.
For more information, contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by telephone at (414) 704-6731. All inquiries are kept in strict confidence and protected by the attorney – client privilege.