While the federal government relaxed some requirements for hospitals in areas hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey, facilities were not free to turn away patients, McGuireWoods senior counsel Nathan Kottkamp said in the Sept. 1 edition of Bloomberg BNA’s Health Care Daily Report.
In the story, “Harvey Doesn’t Diminish Hospital Emergency Treatment Duties,” Kottkamp explained how the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) applied to hospitals in areas of Texas and Louisiana that were under a federal emergency declaration in the aftermath of the storm. The Department of Health and Human Services waived EMTALA civil sanctions for redirecting and transferring patients for a limited time.
“The hospital has got to do the best that it can,” said Kottkamp, a member of the firm’s healthcare practice based in Richmond. “But as long as people are not being flat-out turned away, there is leniency in the law.”
He said hospitals that are closed or in immediate danger could work with emergency responders and media to direct patients to open facilities. “You don't have to risk the safety of the staff to keep a facility open,” Kottkamp said. “But you would want to see a hospital coordinating with media, EMS, fire, and police to put everyone on notice about the closure as early as possible.”