|Wesley Medical Center Stands Up for Patients who were Denied their Choice of Hospitals for Emergency Care
Local Residents Who Asked AAA Ambulance to Take Them to Wesley Medical Center for Emergency Care Were Instead Taken Against Their Will to Forrest General Hospital
HATTIESBURG, MISS. (April 17, 2012) – Wesley Medical Center announced today that it has filed a lawsuit seeking to halt AAA Ambulance Company and Forrest General Hospital from engaging in improper practices that deny local residents their choice of hospitals for emergency care. The lawsuit alleges that AAA Ambulance and Forrest General Hospital conspired together for dishonest, fraudulent, and illegal purposes.
The lawsuit includes examples of several local residents that explicitly asked AAA Ambulance personnel to transport them to Wesley Medical Center for emergency care, but instead their requests were ignored or denied and they were each transported against their preference to Forrest General Hospital.
Wesley’s lawsuit asserts that AAA Ambulance, which is controlled by Forrest General Hospital, has shown reckless disregard for patient choice, violated Federal and Mississippi law, and caused harm to Wesley’s reputation and business by ignoring patient requests, falsifying medical records, making untrue and defamatory statements about Wesley, and intentionally violating the state’s trauma system destination guidelines. Because of these improper actions, Wesley alleges that Forrest General Hospital is fraudulently obtaining a disproportionate share of trauma funds from the State of Mississippi.
In the lawsuit, Wesley alleges that some patients who were victims of this scheme were falsely classified as “trauma” patients and told they could be taken only to Forrest General Hospital, when, in fact, they did not meet trauma criteria and could have received care at Wesley. Some were falsely told Wesley did not have the physician specialists or capabilities to care for their medical emergencies. Others were told their emergency treatment would be delayed while AAA Ambulance sought permission to take them to Wesley, even though Wesley was the closest hospital, the preferred hospital, and had the capabilities to care for their conditions.
“We have been inundated with heartbreaking stories from local residents who wanted to come to Wesley for their emergency care – and they specifically asked to come to Wesley – but in their most vulnerable moments, they were ignored, manipulated, or deceived into believing that they could not come here,” said Mike Neuendorf, chief executive officer of Wesley Medical Center. “In filing this lawsuit, we are standing up for patient choice and the patient’s right to make his or her own decision about where to seek emergency medical care.”
The State of Mississippi has established trauma system destination guidelines that indicate when patients should be transported to hospitals with trauma units. Wesley’s lawsuit alleges that AAA Ambulance and Forrest General Hospital have repeatedly disregarded the guidelines, classifying patients as trauma cases for the sole purpose of transporting them to Forrest General Hospital even though they did not meet the criteria.
In one case described in the lawsuit, a woman fell out of bed and injured her hip. The patient wanted to be taken to Wesley and asked to be taken to Wesley, but AAA Ambulance refused, classifying her as a trauma patient because she had fallen, even though the criteria clearly states that trauma status is indicated for patients who fall 20 feet or more – not out of bed. The patient was transported to Forrest General Hospital against her will and over the objections of family members.
In another alleged case, an assisted-living resident fell from a standing position. The patient repeatedly asked to be taken to Wesley because it is the hospital where many of his doctors practice and his assisted-living facility is actually on Wesley’s campus. AAA Ambulance refused to honor the patient’s choice, and transported him instead, and against his preference, to Forrest General Hospital.
In yet another alleged case, a woman slipped and fell from a standing position on a driveway, landing on her foot and breaking it. She insisted that she be taken to Wesley for care. AAA Ambulance told the woman that she was a trauma patient and that she was required to go to Forrest General Hospital. When the woman insisted again that she be taken to Wesley, AAA Ambulance told her they would have to seek permission to take her to Wesley, which would take twenty minutes. The woman was in pain and did not want to wait unnecessarily for treatment, so reluctantly she conceded to be taken to Forrest General Hospital.
The lawsuit also alleges that other patients say they were deceived by AAA Ambulance when they were falsely told that Wesley could not accommodate their emergency conditions because of a lack of medical services or physician specialists on staff. In fact, Wesley Medical Center offers comprehensive, high-quality healthcare services and can provide care for most emergencies. Additionally, the hospital’s highly-qualified medical staff includes board-certified physicians in the areas of emergency medicine, cardiology, orthopedics, neurology, surgery, pediatrics, OB/GYN and many other medical specialties.
“As a physician, I know how important it is for patients to be informed, involved decision-makers in their own health care,” said Michael May, M.D., chairman of the board of trustees at Wesley Medical Center and a family practice physician. “Patients deserve respect. They deserve to be treated with dignity, and they need to know they have the right to choose the healthcare providers that they prefer and trust for their care.”
In addition to asserting that AAA Ambulance is blatantly disregarding patient preference, the lawsuit alleges that AAA Ambulance has intentionally falsified medical records in violation of Federal and Mississippi law by classifying non-trauma patients as trauma patients for the sole purpose of transporting them to Forrest General Hospital.
Wesley Medical Center is seeking to restore the patient’s right to choose where to receive emergency care through immediate injunctive relief to halt these improper actions by AAA Ambulance and Forrest General Hospital.
Local residents who have requested and have been denied ambulance transport to Wesley Medical Center are urged to contact 601-296-2095 and share their story. Or click here to share your story online.
About Wesley Medical Center
Wesley Medical Center is dedicated to providing high quality medical services and personal, compassionate care. Ranked as the number one hospital in Mississippi for Cardiac Care, Major Orthopedic Care, Joint Replacement, Spinal Surgery and GI Care by Carechex, a medical quality rating service of the Delta Group, Wesley has earned its reputation as an outstanding provider of medical care. Wesley also has been recognized by The Joint Commission as a Top Performer in Key Quality Measures, one of only 405 hospitals in the nation to earn this distinction. Wesley operates the area’s first and only accredited Chest Pain Center. For more information about Wesley and the services offered, call 601-268-8000 or visit Wesley.com.