by Kim Stanger
On-call physicians may not realize their potential exposure if they fail or decline to respond to a call from the hospital’s emergency department. Failure to respond is a violation of the Emergency Treatment and Active Labor Act (“EMTALA”) that may expose the physician to a $50,000 fine and exclusion from Medicare or Medicaid as well as contract liability. It may also expose the hospital to a fine of $50,000 and a lawsuit by the relevant patient or a hospital that receives an improper transfer.
EMTALA generally requires hospitals to provide an emergency screening examination and stabilizing treatment to a patient who comes to the hospital seeking emergency care. See 42 USC § 1395dd; 42 CFR § 489.24. EMTALA establishes the following penalties:
(A) A participating hospital that negligently violates a requirement of this section is subject to a civil money penalty of … not more than $25,000 … for each such violation.
(B) Subject to subparagraph (C) [below], any physician who is responsible for the examination, treatment, or transfer of an individual in a participating hospital, including a physician on-call for the care of such an individual, … is subject to a civil money penalty of not more than $50,000 for each such violation and, if the violation is gross and flagrant or is repeated, to exclusion from participation in [Medicare or Medicaid]….
Id. at § 1395dd(d)(1), emphasis added; see also 42 CFR §§ 1003.500(a)-(c) and 1003.510. EMTALA expressly states that the foregoing penalties apply when an on-call physician fails to respond to a call for assistance: Continue reading