Audit finds U of C hospital violated federal law when patient died

  • By Alex Parker
  • Staff Writer
  • March 27, 2009 @ 2:00 PM

The University of Chicago Medical Center violated federal law by not giving an emergency patient who later died sufficient treatment, according to an Illinois Department of Public Health investigation.

A subsequent U of C investigation following the Feb. 3 death of an elderly, debilitated patient found staff members may not have followed hospital protocol.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid determined last month that the hospital violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Law, which requires hospitals to provide stabilizing treatment to any patient that comes to the emergency room, says Cinthia Michel, spokeswoman for the CMS Region 5 office, based in Chicago.

An audit of the hospital’s actions was conducted by IDPH last month. The hospital was then required to compile a list of action items to address faults found in the audit.

U of C spokesman John Easton says the medical center is submitting a plan of correction today to IDPH and CMS.

“Whenever a new patient comes in, they should be triaged and monitored,” Easton says. “There was not sufficient attention paid to this patient.”

The plan U of C is submitting calls for active monitoring of the waiting room, Easton says. It is typical to submit a performance improvement plan to overseeing agencies when an investigation is launched, he says.

The hospital has come under fire lately for plans to reorganize its emergency department. The incident occurred before any changes were put in place, according to a statement released by U of C.

Michel says the hospital did not engage in patient dumping, which is prohibited by the EMTALA law.

Michel says CMS will review U of C's plan of correction next week. Following an on-site inspection to see if the hospital has sufficiently incorporated IDPH's recommendations, CMS will determine if any further action is necessary.

Daily News Staff Writer Alex Parker covers public health. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 17, or alex [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.