Can a hospital outpatient clinic refuse to treat a patient?

by Michael
(Ohio)

This happened in Ohio. I went to First Care which is an affiliation with the local hospital because my wife had bells palsy. She just wanted to get a check up on her eye and she was complaining of her ears bothering her. They were advised that this is all we wanted them to do since we do not have a family physician in the area.

She was turned away after getting in the back to see the doctor. We left and were very humiliated and upset. Later, after making complaints to the hospital and First Care they called back and advised that they would look at her when the other doctor came in. We went back and they then diagnosed her with a double ear infection and prescribed her medicine for it.

We were just wanting to know if this is wrong on their part - refusing to treat my wife - and what, if anything we can do about it? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Can a hospital outpatient clinic refuse to treat a patient?":

Michael (Ohio):

Medical care should never be denied to a person who is ill, injured, or otherwise harmed, but there are some exceptions. The hospital which owns First Care may have a policy that First Care locations are not meant to provide medical care to persons with serious medical conditions such as Bells Palsy.

That might be because the First Care Clinic is ill-equipped to deal with complications from Bells Palsy, or that the hospital's policy is not to permit Clinics to treat patients complaining of injuries which might be better addressed at the hospital.

It is certainly unfortunate your wife had to suffer discomfort from an ear infection, especially because if the First Clinic doctor had seen her, the doctor might have prescribed antibiotics to quicken her recovery.

You certainly did the right thing by complaining to the hospital's administration. Let's hope next time they don't hesitate to treat your wife, for any reason. Other than filing your complaint there is little more you can do.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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