Despite EMTALA, Women in Labor Are Turned Away
The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) requires all hospitals with an emergency room to provide delivery services to women who are in active labor. However, despite these protections, many women in active labor are turned away. When hospitals violate EMTALA, they place the health of the mother and infant in danger.
Turning Away Patients
Hospitals give numerous excuses for turning away patients in active labor. Some claim they don’t have the staff. Some claim they don’t have the training. Every emergency room physician in the United States receives basic obstetric training to deliver a baby in the emergency room.
Patients should ardently protest when they are turned away from a hospital’s emergency room for reasons that are clearly covered under EMTALA. Moreover, individuals should document their experience including the reasons stated by ER personnel, documents they are required to sign, and actions undertaken by personnel. This can be used as evidence in a personal injury claim.
Enacted in 1986, EMTALA requires hospitals to stabilize and treat women in active labor regardless of their age, health status, ethnic origin, or ability to pay for treatment. The law prohibits hospitals from “dumping” patients to other facilities and requires that if transport is required, the hospital utilize appropriate medical transport.
Penalties for Violating EMTALA
Facilities that violate EMTALA can face severe fines and penalties. These include up to $50,000 per violation of the hospital and up to $50,000 in fines for the physician. The hospital and physician can also be pursued as defendants in a personal injury lawsuit. Additionally, a receiving hospital can pursue damages against a transferring hospital’s violations of EMTALA.
Rural Hospitals are Frequent Offenders
Many rural hospitals have eliminated their emergency room departments to trim costs. Those that do have ER departments often turn away patients in active labor. In rural areas where hospitals are few and far between, this can lead to severe health risks for mother and child including potentially fatal childbirth complications.
Moreover, many hospitals have eliminated their obstetric departments, leaving even fewer delivery options available to women who go into labor. Roughly 20% of Americans live in rural areas, so a significant number of people are at risk of not receiving the emergency medical care they require if they go into sudden labor.