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Valley Hospital says it 'complied with all legal options' treating abandoned patient

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Valley Hospital said it complied with all legal obligations in the treatment of a patient that their security officers abandoned on the sidewalk across the street from the hospital, as captured on a News 3 camera.

The video shows a woman with a walker being taken from Valley Hospital by security and then left alone laying on the sidewalk along Wellness Way, on the University Medical Center property.

Moments later, the security officers cross the road back to Valley Hospital as bystanders and UMC staff tend to her care not long after.

A Valley Hospital spokesperson sent News 3 a statement Tuesday:

We are aware of the video footage of a discharged patient being escorted by security personnel from Valley Hospital. While the footage is distressing to watch, Valley Hospital complied with all legal obligations in the treatment of this patient.
Due to patient privacy laws, we cannot provide any specifics as to this particular patient.
Valley Hospital had never and would never engage in "patient dumping," as alleged; that has not occurred in this situation. Valley Hospital has never been cited for a violation of EMTALA and we comply with our obligations to screen and treat all patients who present to our ER in accordance with the law.
We are continuing to review and investigate this matter to determine if there are any enhanced procedures or protocols that we could utilize in the future to address similar situations.

READ MORE NEWS 3 | Elected leaders say News 3 video verifies patient dumping in Las Vegas

EMTALA is the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act. It was established by Congress in 1986 to ensure public access to emergency services regardless of ability to pay. The law requires a patient to be stabilized before release.

UMC CEO Mason Van Houweling said in a statement the situation shows "unfortunate proof that 'patient dumping' occurs." The patient remained in UMC's care as of Monday, which indicates she was not likely stable leaving Valley Hospital on Friday.

Local experts tell News 3 that for-profit hospitals will dump patients without insurance at UMC, a not-for-profit hospital that gets a yearly subsidy from Clark County taxpayers to treat indigent patients. This year, UMC received $31 million in taxpayer money.

A Las Vegas attorney who specializes in personal injury said it appears Valley Hospital has some legal violations based on the video.

"I hope this hospital, not only from a liability perspective, but from a purely doing the right thing perspective, really looks into this and looks into what happened here because I think, at a minimum, there were failures," Craig Drummond, owner of The Drummond Law Firm, said. "The government or a court would work to determine that they violated EMTALA by doing what they did. Then there are a number of ramifications, including fines up to $100,000, including losing government contracts and government Medicaid abilities, as well as this individual or her family could take real action."

Dr. Marc J. Khan, dean of the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV, said the video shows a possible violation of EMTALA.

"Taking what appears to be an elderly patient and putting her on the sidewalk in front of another hospital certainly is not consistent with that regulation," he said. "We all have an obligation to take care of patients, especially vulnerable patients, as this patient appeared to be. And to not take care of that patient, quite frankly, is not acceptable and not consistent with what we certainly teach our future doctors to do."

Valley Hospital initially seemed to place fault on the security officers who work for Star Protection Agency. A Valley Hospital spokesperson said on Friday, "The security officers, who are employed by a third party, will be immediately counseled."

However, Drummond said that is not a strong excuse for the actions captured on camera.

"There are many areas in the law where there's duties that are what are called non-delegable duties. And what that means is, even if you hire a third party to do something, you as the primary entity are responsible for what that third party does."

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Star Protection Agency initially said no comment on Monday when News 3 reached out. The company directed News 3 on Tuesday to send an email to its chief operating officer, Bryan Kettler, for a statement, but we have yet to receive a response.

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