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Legally can a hospital refuse to take a patient?
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Legally can a hospital refuse to take a patient?

My mother was taken to an emergency room with a head injury. The ER/hospital didn't have a head trauma unit and began making the necessary calls to transfer her to another hospital. After an hour of contacting 6 different hospitals that refused to accept her do to space availability, a hospital in a different town accepted her. Nearly 2 hours later she made it to a hospital that had a head trauma unit. Is it legal for a hospital to refuse a patient that needs the services they provide?


Unfortunately yes it is. Hospitals will turn away ambulances frequently claiming no room. Most every county has a hospital that's contracted with the county to take any and all patients regardless of insurance or ability to pay. Call your county office to find out where it is.
I'm talking about the United states. I don't know about other Countries

If they don't have the services to treat her, why would you want her to stay. She should get the best health care that a hospital can provide, and if they can't, then they did the best they could ethically speaking.

if she is stable they can refuse her,
if her vitals are falling or she needs immediate care, they MUST help her
but if she was ok after 2 hours
then she was stable

Hey Sweetie
Yes hospitals are Private Companies run by CEO and Board of Directors. I got turned down once by an all Black hospital. The fact that people on here said it is illegal to turn people away is freaking scary how stupid people are in the U.S.

So she was never refused treatment now was she? That is the key. As long as we do not have socialized medicine they cannot refuse to treat her. Finding adequately equipped facilities is not refusing treatment.

Phil F
If the hospital doesn't have the facilities to provide care then I think it's legal to refuse & transfer the patient.
If it has no room then it must transfer the patient, because you need the room in the hospital to lie down and be treated.
It's common sense to refuse a patient if they have no room.
Weather it's legal or not...

I don't think the hospitals technically refused. The issue was more likely that since those hospitals were so full, if she had gone there she would have had to wait even longer for treatment. They were probably telling your first hospital that they couldn't see her right away, she still could have gone there and waited hours and hours for a spot to open up...

Sounds like Albuquerque, the waiting time in the ER is 6 hrs
I'm not joking, we took my father in-law in to the ER in ABQ, he had congestive heart failure and was so swollen he couldn't stand or sit, his legs felt like plastic, we waited from 9 am till 3pm before he was even seen, he died about 3 days, that was at Loveless hospital


Apparently yes. Do you think this only happened to you this one time?

The first hospital can't help because they don't even have the equipment, they can ship you elsewhere. If a hospital doesn't have room, they don't have room. If their beds are full, all the doctors are busy...do you even want to go there?
ERs do not work on a "first come, first served" policy, they work based on injury. If your mother didn't get ANY care until she was seen 2 hours later and then suffered permanent damage/death you could sue. You may be able to sue if she didn't get any care for 2 hours period. But if they checked her over and she turned out fine in the long run, no, you can't sue because they evaluated her health, judged that she would be okay, and she was.

surely it cant be.

My understanding of these things is that if a person doesn't have insurance and shows up, they're only responsiblity is to stabilize the person, after that they can be sent away.

Hospitals cannot refuse emergency services. They have no requirement past that.

Gentle Giant
If they do not think they are qualified, or the best qualified, to treat a serious injury than they are duty bound to send the patient to a facility which can give her the best treatment and where the best outcome can be expected.
Why on Earth would you want your Mother, or anyone, to be treated for a serious head trauma by someone who told you upfront that they are not qualified to treat her properly?
Had they treatefd her and things not gone well you would probably have sued them for treating her when they were not qualified to do so. They did the proper thing.

pay it forward
It happens all the time when they don't have enough room. I don't think they can kick her to the curb. I worked at a hospital & they would triage. Which means they would take the ones they could handle & actually take the worst ones & send others home to call their doctors cause they can only handle what they can handle.

In that case they followed the right procedure.it's sad,but that's what they have to do.but how irresponsible of a HOSPITAL to wait that long before getting assistance in curing a HEAD TRAUMA INJURY?! that is crazy.you need to file a lawsuit.she could have died


There are many times that hospitals have to divert patients to other hospitals, especially when their census to too high, or capacity is maxed out, as well as when there isn't enough care providers, due to the same. They can legally divert patients. Look at it this way. If they don't divert when they're maxxed out, anyone else coming in won't get the medical attention they need.

Yes, they can refuse that is why in the ambulance drivers ask if you are insured or uninsured if you are uninsured you goto a City or County Facility if you are insured you go to the nearest hospital or provider that your insurance uses... If you insurance does not work with that hospital you may have to locate to another hospital after being there to comply with your insurance. However in most emergencies this will be waved by your insurance company... ( I was taken by ambulance to a Round Rock, Tx. Hospital and after arriving, within 30 minutes, I was told to move, by ambulance, to a Georgetown, Tx. Hospital just because Scott and White did not work with the Round Rock, Tx.)!

HOSPITALS REFUSE PATIENTS ALL THE TIME, and ambulance drivers know where to take the uninsured....

Kayla LaBayla
Yes. There's many reasons why they could refuse her, such as, they don't have space, they don't have staff on hand, yadda yadda.

Depending on how serious the injury (or whatever it is) is, yes. If the injury is minor most likely you'd have to wait for a room, but if the injury is as serious as head trauma most hospitals will have a room or make room.


Hospitals reject patients all the time due to lack of insurance so yes. Their duty is to stabilize the patient and thats it.

I Don't Think They Can In The Uk

But They Can In The USA Because You Need To Pay Like Rent For A Hospital Bed

Wall Street King
it depends on what type of health insurance ur mother has.

and the type of hospital it is.


It depends on where you live....generally speaking a patient can refuse treatment but not the other way around....I would speak to an attorney...

La bella vita
Its not legal. I would bring them to court for sure.

No hospital can refuse a patient for any reason what so ever.

it is sad to see what's happening in America. i went to the emergency room because i had terrible pain in my stomach, i waited over 3 hours never get called. my blood pressure was 187 over 102 they did not care. i left the hopital when i asked for the record of the vitl that the had on her hands she refused to give me a copy.

a hospital can not turn away patients in an emergency situation but in this case they did treat her and sent her to an adequate hospital which in that case they did under the guidelines of the law,,,, the only hospitals that can turn patients away is if they are for profit. they can turn away all except in an emergency. if a hospital is non profit they can not turn you away at all because it is funded by taxpayers....so to the one that said you were turned away because of an all black hospital it wouldn't have been in this country unless they are private profit organization. Also all hospitals have C.E.O.s and board members.

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