Friday, July 29, 2005

More on Ottumwa's EMTALA Challenge

The following is a press release from Ottumwa Regional Health Center regarding ORHC's possible removal from the Medicare program. The statement from ORHC read as follows:

For the past two months, Ottumwa Regional Health Center has been the subject of an on-going Federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) investigation. EMTALA was enacted to combat the discriminatory practice of some hospitals transferring, discharging, or refusing to treat indigent patients coming to the emergency department because of the high cost of diagnosing and treating patients with emergency medical conditions. While the Act applies to all Medicare participating hospitals, it protects anyone coming to a hospital seeking emergency medical services, not just Medicare beneficiaries. EMTALA imposes strict penalties, including fines and exclusion from the Medicare program for violations of the Act. The Act imposes requirements on Medicare participating hospitals that provide emergency medical services.

On Tuesday, July 26 ORHC was notified (via fax with original to be mailed) by the Centers for Medicaid/Medicare Services (CMS) that ORHC participation in the Medicare program would be terminated effective Aug. 11., as a result of the ongoing investigation. Quoting the fax:

"Our review of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals visit determined that the hospital discharged a patient with an unstable emergency medical condition for family observation, in a inappropriate care setting and as a result, the patient remained in an unstable condition."

Lynn Olson, President and CEO of ORHC responded:

"Ottumwa Regional Health Center believes according to the requirements of EMTALA and our own high standards of care, that the patient was managed appropriately and was not discharged in unstable condition.We believe the patient in question was assessed, evaluated, treated, and had plan for the follow-up care that was discussed between the physician, the nurse, the patient and the family and was discharged appropriately."

ORHC is continuing to work on the appeal process and will keep the public informed of the proceedings.

Presently, Ottumwa Regional continues to schedule all patients including Medicare beneficiaries.


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