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Auburn Community Hospital

Auburn Community Hospital.

Auburn Community Hospital has been cited for violations after transferring a patient who jumped two stories off its parking garage to another emergency room and not treating her at its own. However, the director of the responding medical transportation service said the hospital made the right call.

According to an inspection report by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the incident took place early the morning of April 14. A 24-year-old female checked into the Auburn hospital's emergency department with her father, then ran out of the waiting room while he logged her in. Her name was never recorded in the department's log, the report says.

The woman then jumped from the second level of the hospital's parking garage, the report continues. A hospital emergency staff member evaluated the woman as she was lying in the driveway of the garage, but did not document their evaluation. The woman's chin was cut and she complained of chest, wrist, hip and jaw pain, as well as pain taking deep breaths. She denied any head, neck or back pain, the report says, but the staff member applied a neck brace.

Auburn Fire Department and TLC Emergency Medical Services were called and arrived at the hospital at 2:09 that morning. The woman was then transported to Upstate University Hospital's trauma center for treatment.

The hospital's violations, according to the report, were not providing a proper medical screening, failing to enter information about the patient into its emergency department log and failing to document the risks of transferring the patient. It also cited the hospital for not sufficiently training its staff to follow the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, a 1986 law that requires hospitals' emergency departments to provide patients who enter them stabilization and treatment, and not "dump" the patients to other hospitals.

In an emailed statement, the state Department of Health, which conducted the inspection on behalf of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said it will "take appropriate action" based on the results of an ongoing investigation. It declined further comment.

However, Auburn Community Hospital "should have been congratulated" for its response, said Lon Fricano, director of operations at TLC.

Despite the violations the hospital incurred, Fricano continued, its response was "absolutely in the patient's best interest." Because the woman showed clear signs of trauma, he said, Auburn was not equipped to treat her because it doesn't have a level I trauma center like Upstate. Admitting her back into Auburn only would have delayed any effective treatment, Fricano said.

"Less than 40 minutes after that call, she was in the proper facility," he said. "Everything was done right. No one in the loop on this issue would dispute that."

Fricano also believes the citation is a misapplication of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act.

"The problem is the feds think their rules trump not only any state or local rules, but even common sense," he said.

Auburn Community Hospital CEO Scott Berlucchi said the hospital will nonetheless comply with the citation by educating its staff in the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, and revising its emergency department log. It has 90 days to do so, he said. The hospital also has not been issued a monetary fine.

Berlucchi described the citation as an opportunity to learn and "improve an already well-functioning emergency department."

"In my 30 years of managing hospitals, this is one of the more peculiar things I've seen," he said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and the patient."

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Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.

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I'm the features editor for The Citizen and auburnpub.com, and have been here since 2006. I also cover local arts and culture, business, food and drink, and more.