How and When an Emergency Room Should Transfer a Patient

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nurse pushing hospital gurney with patientThere is a limit to the care that some emergency rooms can provide. Some patients will need specialty care and will require hospital admission or a transfer to a different emergency room. When the emergency room delays the transfer, the patient’s medical care is also delayed and serious—potentially fatal—consequences can occur.

Transfers From One Emergency Room to Another

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) requires certain standards of all emergency rooms that accept Medicare or Medicaid payments. Among other things, the EMTALA requires emergency rooms to accept patients who can’t pay and to:

  • Arrange for an appropriate transfer to another healthcare facility if the ER cannot stabilize the patient. This part of the law also requires emergency rooms to provide treatment that will lessen the risks of transferring the patient, to get consent from the receiving hospital that it will accept the transfer, and to ensure that the transfer is done with qualified personnel and transportation equipment (such as an ambulance staffed with EMTs). The failure to arrange for a safe transfer that complies with EMTALA requirements is one of the most frequent violations of the EMTALA law.
  • Accept transfers from other hospitals if the ER has special abilities or can care for the incoming patient.

Additionally, the law requires emergency rooms to report any improperly transferred patients it receives within 72 hours of the occurrence.

Transfers From the Emergency Room to the Hospital

If a patient is not transferred to another hospital, the emergency room generally has two options. The ER may treat and release the patient, or the ER may transfer the patient for hospital admission.

Hospitals have procedures for making transfers from the ER to the hospital. These procedures must be followed to protect the health of the patient. Often, these procedures include stabilizing the patient before moving him from the emergency room to a hospital room, making sure all emergency room medical records are transferred with him, and monitoring him until the transfer is made.

Delay in Transfers May Cause Delay in Treatment

The emergency room has a duty to stabilize and monitor patients until they are discharged, transferred to other emergency rooms, or admitted to the hospital. However, when there is a delay in transfer to another ER or admission to the hospital, the patient’s medical treatment may be delayed, and the patient may suffer significant health consequences. Specifically, the patient’s pain may increase, his condition might worsen, and he could suffer permanent or fatal health consequences due to the delay.

What to Do After a Delay in Treatment Injury

As with any medical injury case, you must find out why the injury occurred. If the emergency room did everything it could to secure a transfer to another facility or a bed in the hospital and provided treatment to the patient during the process, then it may not be liable for any injuries due to a delay in transfer. However, if the emergency room neglects the patient during the transfer process or fails to use reasonable care in securing a safe and efficient transfer, then any delay in treatment injury could be the fault of the emergency room staff.

You have the right to find out exactly what caused your transfer delay and to hold the right people accountable for the injuries you suffered if the delay was the result of negligence, and you were harmed because of it. Our experienced delay-in-treatment medical malpractice lawyers and staff nurse will do a thorough investigation and get you the information you need to make informed decisions about protecting your legal rights.

If your transfer was delayed due to emergency room negligence, we will help you fight for your fair recovery of past and future healthcare costs, lost income, out-of-pocket expenses, pain, and suffering. Contact us today via this website or by phone to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation at your convenience.

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