A California hospital was ordered by the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) to pay a penalty of $50,000 for failing to provide required emergency care for a patient who died in the emergency department (St. Joseph’s Medical Center v. OIG, Departmental Appeals Bd., Civil Remedies Div., Dec. No. CR1895, 1/30/09).
In a January 30, decision, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Steven T. Kessel – Departmental Appeals Board, Civil Remedies Division – sustained the OIG’s determination that St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Stockton, California, violated EMTALA by failing to provide a medical screening examination and stabilizing treatment for the patient. The OIG issued a press release to highlight the fact that St. Joseph’s pursued litigation before an ALJ, which is a relatively unusual situation.
In the decision, the ALJ stated that the failure to provide the patient with a screening examination was “shocking” in light of the facts that were known to St. Joseph’s staff the night the patient died. He also noted that the events that took place on December 29, 2001, show that St. Joseph’s staff “botched horribly” the care they gave to the patient. “This case demonstrates that OIG will impose the maximum civil monetary penalty for egregious violations of the requirements of EMTALA,” HHS OIG Daniel R. Levinson said.
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