[Editor’s Note: This column is part of an ongoing series that will address reader questions about the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA).]

Question: If picking up a patient from home who requests transport to a hospital other than ours, is it necessary to have the transfer forms completed by medical control and faxed to the receiving facility, or is it acceptable for the forms to be hand delivered to the facility along with the patient?

Answer: Ambulances going out to patients’ homes are not subject to EMTALA unless owned by the hospital, notes Jonathan D. Lawrence, MD, JD, FACEP, an ED physician and medical staff risk management liaison at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, CA.

Assuming the question refers to a hospital-owned ambulance that is operating independent of a communitywide emergency medical services system, the only federal requirement is that the ambulance activities comply with EMTALA regulations, according to John D. Lipson, MD, MBA, principal of Columbus, IN-based Medical Staff Support Services, which assists medical staff leaders and administrators with EMTALA compliance. "It does not matter how the transfer forms are delivered to the receiving hospital, as long as they are delivered in a timely manner," he says.


For more information about the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, contact:

Jonathan D. Lawrence, MD, JD, FACEP, Emergency Department, St. Mary Medical Center, 1050 Linden Ave., Long Beach, CA 30813. Telephone: (562) 491-9090. E-mail: jdl28@cornell.edu.

• John D. Lipson, MD, MBA, Medical Staff Support Services, 6043 Chinkapin Drive, Columbus, IN 47201. Telephone: (812) 342-2658. E-mail: lipsonj@medstaff.net. Web: www.medstaff.net.