A federal court, in Friedrich v. South Cty. Hosp. Healthcare Sys., found that hospital-owned urgent or walk-in centers may be liable under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). EMTALA requires hospital emergency departments to screen for emergency medical conditions and to stabilize patients with such conditions.
The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) defines an “emergency department” under the EMTALA as “any department or facility of the hospital, regardless of whether it is located on or off the main hospital campus” that: (1) is licensed as an emergency room; (2) is held out to the public as a place that provides care for emergency medical conditions on an urgent basis without requiring a previously scheduled appointment; or (3) in the preceding calendar year, provided treatment of emergency medical conditions on an urgent basis in at least one-third of all of its outpatient visits.
The court found that the urgent/walk-in care center of South County Hospital qualified under the second prong of the definition. Therefore, the center had a duty to screen the patient, who was complaining of chest pain, for emergency medical conditions and to stabilize any condition found.
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