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30% of hospitals have violated EMTALA, investigation finds

Nearly one-third of U.S. hospitals have violated emergency department care standards set by the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act in the last decade, according to an investigative report from WebMD and Georgia Health News.

WebMD and Georgia Health News reporters secured a list of all EMTALA violations reported between 2008-18 from CMS via a Freedom of Information Act request. They also requested full reports for violations in the past 27 months. The geographic information systems company Esri helped analyze the data.

Here are five findings:

1. Reporters found 4,341 EMTALA violations occurred at 1,682 hospitals nationwide between 2008-18.

2. EMTALA violations occurred more often at hospitals with fewer than 100 beds, with these hospitals accounting for 34 percent of violations.

3. Violations were also more likely to occur at hospitals in the Southeast region. Investigators found 1,175 violations occurred at hospitals in this region.

4. The three most common violations were failing to conduct thorough medical screenings (1,353 violations), not transferring patients properly (701) and not following ED log standards (607).

5. Between 2016-18, EMTALA violations were linked to at least 34 patient deaths.

"EMTALA is fundamentally the Golden Rule of emergency care, codified by Congress. Every hospital should strive to provide every person who presents symptoms in an emergency department with the best care. There should be one standard of care — their best care," Richard Wild, MD, a regional CMO at CMS, told WebMD and Georgia Health News.

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