According to EMTALA, the Federal Emergency Medical Treatment Act, hospitals must treat any patient who comes in for emergency treatment. Across the South, hospital systems are struggling, and many administration officials have said that facilities will soon have to start ranking scarce healthcare resources according to a patient's likelihood of survival. This means that a public hospital is the best option for those without health insurance or the means to pay for care. Both the Mississippi Hospital Association and the Arkansas Hospital Association were asked whether a person's vaccination status would have any bearing on the allocation of scarce treatment options.
As discussed above, there are certain situations in which a hospital can be held liable for refusing to admit or treat patients, such as if the hospital denies treatment based on discriminatory grounds. Paediatricians, reacting to the acceleration of anti-vaccine campaigns over the last decade, have become especially accustomed to turning away families who refuse to be vaccinated, often out of concern for the avoidable spread of infections in their facilities. This means, for example, that hospital outpatient clinics that are not equipped to handle medical emergencies are not bound by EMTALA and can simply refer patients to a nearby emergency department for care. The hospital system warned that its census of COVID-9 inpatients was approaching 300, saying, "This is a record no one wants".
At this point, the hospital's billing department can take a harder line and discharge the woman within 24 hours. If she goes into labour and the nearest hospital is privately run, the EMTLA requires the hospital to admit the woman regardless of her ability to pay, as childbirth is considered an emergency situation. Once the emergency (the delivery) is resolved, the hospital has no obligation to provide treatment to the mother or her child. Whenever the patient enters hospital property, including the car park, pavement, driveway or other areas within 250 metres of the main hospital buildings, and requests emergency treatment, EMTALA obliges the hospital to provide it.
If you do not have health insurance, you are still entitled to emergency medical care at most hospitals, and the denial of necessary emergency care could be the basis for a medical malpractice claim. Since most hospitals meet both of these requirements, EMTALA covers almost all hospitals in the country. When asked whether a patient's vaccination status would be taken into account in a scenario that would require assessing a patient's likelihood of survival, the Tennessee Hospital Association said that vaccination status would not be a determining factor. For example, there are some situations in which a hospital may be held liable if it makes a decision based on whether to treat insured or uninsured patients.