Transfers Of Patients And Medical Malpractice: Who Is Liable For Injuries?

Medical Malpractice Mistakes

Transfers can be some of the more complicated issues in healthcare. Simply put, this is when a patient is handed off from one provider to another provider. Commonly this is seen with hospitals, where a patient comes into one hospital’s emergency department and needs to get transferred to another hospital for specialized care. For example, when a patient comes into an emergency room with severe burns. The patient needs to be stabilized and then transferred to a hospital with a burn unit.

Another type of transfer is from a nursing home or adult care facility to a hospital. This could be when a patient’s health begins to rapidly decline, or after an episode such as an accident, fall, heart attack, stroke, or similar medical emergency. There are other types of transfers to, but these are the two most common to be aware of.

During each of these transfers there is going to be a middle ground provider such as a hospital of medi-vac helicopter. These are the third party which is providing the transportation from one provider to the other. Sometimes transfers can be short, such as a matter of minutes between on hospital to another. For instance, a patient comes in to St. Peter’s Hospital with severe trauma and needs to be stabilized and then transferred to Albany Medical Center which has a specialized trauma unit. St. Peter’s Hospital can certainly treat a trauma patient, but Albany Medical Center has the specialized unit. The same would be true if there was a severe dental injury to a patient who went to Albany Medical Center, who would then be stabilized and transferred to St. Peter’s Hospital which generally has a trauma dentist on call available around the clock. These transfers are minutes apart, and really on a few turns away.

But other transfers can be lengthy. In our area, it could be from Kingston Hospital to Albany Medical Center. It could be from Albany Medical Center to Burlington. Sometimes transfers from Albany to New York City or vice versa are possible. These can take hours to complete.

This brings a lot of questions with liability if there is medical malpractice. Sometimes it is difficult to determine who caused the injury. This is particularly true of pressure sore cases, where all parties claim the other caused it and that neither facility performed the negligence. There could be separate issues occurring before a transfer, but also during or after the transfer that are medical malpractice.

Before a transfer occurs, a patient must be stabilized. Failing to stabilize the patient before completing the transfer can result in liability. During the transfer, the transfer team must properly keep the patient stabilized and prevent any further injuries. The transfer team must also keep track of the patient’s vitals and ensure there is no decline. Finally, upon receipt the new provider must complete a thorough check of the patient and review the triage notes from the transferring facility and the transfer team. Any issues must be immediately addressed. A value to review and immediately treat can also result in medical malpractice.

When a patient is injured by medical malpractice and it is unclear which provider caused the injury, a prudent medical malpractice attorney will commence an action against all possible entities. During disclosure and the course of the litigation the non-negligent parties will be discovered. When in doubt, protect your rights and sue them all.