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Rights of a Hospital Patient

Once you become a hospital patient, you enter into a separate relationship, with specific rights and duties, with the hospital. This relationship may also affect certain aspects of your relationship with your physician.

Who decides if I will admitted to the hospital? Your physician admits you to the hospital, and the hospital can refuse your admission only in certain cases. If your physician determines that an emergency is present, a Texas statute provides that a public hospital must admit you regardless of ability to pay. A private hospital does not yet have such a statutory duty, but in such cases the Texas courts will probably follow the decisions of other state courts and impose a similar duty. In most other states, court decisions impose upon all hospitals, in an emergency, the duty to admit you if the hospital has room and if it is equipped to handle the type of emergency treatment needed. If it cannot find room, it must make arrangements to provide temporary care until you can be safely moved to another hospital. If your physician does not feel that an emergency exists, the hospital can legally refuse to have you admitted. The hospital cannot discriminate against you based upon racial or ethnic grounds, but it does not have to admit you if it feels that you will be unable to pay the bill.

What if I do not have a physician? All accredited hospitals must provide some level of emergency service. The extent of this service depends upon the classification of the hospital. If you go to the emergency room, the hospital must provide someone to determine if you have a condition that requires emergency treatment.

Are all hospitals required to have a well-equipped emergency service? No. The emergency service capabilities that are required vary, depending upon the classification of the hospital.

Are all hospital required to have a physician on call? No. Not all hospitals are required to provide a physician.

How can I be assured of a proper emergency room with a physician? You should ask your physician to recommend the best-equipped emergency care facilities, or you can visit the hospitals in your area to determine whether they provide a fully equipped emergency room. This will save time in an actual emergency. If you are in a strange area, you should call the hospital you wish to go to in order to determine if it is set up to handle emergencies. Ambulance drivers will generally know which hospitals in the area will have the appropriate emergency capabilities.

What should I do before going to the emergency room? You should call and tell them you are coming. You should bring identification and insurance cards, if you have insurance. If you are taking a minor other than your own child, you should if possible, get a written authorization from the parent or guardian.

Can the hospital discharge me once I am admitted? Once you have been admitted, you cannot be discharged until it is medically safe to do so. Your physician will order your discharge from the hospital when it is appropriate. If it is medically safe, and if your physician requests it, the hospital may transfer you to a more specialized facility.

Do religious hospitals have special rules? Many religious hospitals prevent medical procedures that are against their religious beliefs. This usually affects abortions, childbirth, and the care of newborns. A few hospitals will not provide whole-blood replacement. You should investigate this before going to a religious hospital, and you should ask whether any types of therapy or treatment are not provided.

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