State Agency Fines Hospital in Forcible Removal Case $45,000

Florida's health care agency issued a $45,000 fine to the hospital where a black woman died after being forcibly removed from the emergency room by a white police officer.

The Agency for Health Care Administration lists four counts against Calhoun-Liberty Hospital in a 30-page administrative complaint issued Wednesday. Three counts are related to access to emergency care and services, and one is related to the Blountstown hospital's risk management program, patient grievance analysis.

Last week the agency released a report from its investigation where the 25-bed facility was cited for 10 deficiencies. AHCA Secretary Elizabeth Dudek called those deficiencies "egregious.''

The fines come after the death of Barbara Dawson, a 57-year-old woman who was treated in the emergency room Dec. 21 but refused to leave when she was discharged because she didn't think she was well. She was handcuffed by Blountstown Police Officer John Tadlock and collapsed when he tried to put her in a patrol car. She died about 90 minutes later.

Two counts, each a $10,000 fine, cite the hospital's failure to follow their policies on assessment and reassessment in the emergency room. The first count is related to the Dawson case, and the second is for a patient in the emergency room who was never treated. The complaint says the ER was staffed by a nurse practitioner who was not able to dispense medication. The patient told investigators that they never saw a physician or the nurse practitioner during the visit.

The third count is for failing to address access to emergency services in terms of quality of care and how the ER was managed. Because it had to do with two patients, the total fine levied was $20,000.

The final count is a $5,000 fine for not evaluating a complaint after the patient was turned away from the ER and not implementing its own incident report system for two patients.

The facility must submit correction plans by Friday and have them in place by March 1 to avoid being suspended from Florida's Medicaid program.

Hospital CEO Ruth Attaway said in a statement that they are "committed to moving our hospital forward so we can provide quality health care to our residents, and this is one more step in that process. Having this information is certainly better than operating under a looming unknown factor.''

The Blountstown Police Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Department of Health also have ongoing investigations. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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