Should GMH get rid of EMTALA requirement?

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(PNC file photo)

Guam – Guam Memorial Hospital CEO PeterJohn Camacho is offering up a possible solution that could address the hospital’s lack of adequate funding: get rid of the mandate that prevents the hospital from turning patients away.

In light of the palpable threats from accrediting agencies this year, Adelup and senators have worked tirelessly on a means of funding the hospital, whether it be through a dedicated funding source or otherwise.

It’s been a source of frustration for many in the community and at times used as fuel in this year’s election season. Camacho says whether the public or legislature agrees or disagrees that funding is the root of the problem, the experts acknowledge a trend in hospitals that lack funding.

“When Joint Commission and came in and did the survey for us the last time, in talking with Mark Pelletier, who is the chief operating officer for Joint Commission … and in that communication he was actually saying that in their experience their clients who don’t have access to cash for capital needs often have a difficult time in complying or meeting standards for not only Joint Commission but [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services],” explains Camacho.

CMS, another accrediting agency, provides certified healthcare institutions with Medicare reimbursements. Failing to meet CMS standards will result in the termination of a provider agreement. CMS had threatened in June to terminate GMH’s provider agreement come October 3, however, on Tuesday, CMS said it has accepted GMH’s plan for corrective action and will no longer consider termination at this time.

Countless solutions have been offered for decades but none seem to have worked, at least for the long term. What about doing away with EMTALA, or the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which is tied to Medicare funding?

“Maybe something that should be on the table, is maybe changing the mandate. You know we’re supposed to take care of everyone and anyone regardless of their ability to pay,” notes Camacho. “So change it.”

He then made it clear that abolishing EMTALA is not something he necessarily wants.

“I’m not advocating for that because I understand and I wanna make sure that if somebody comes in from the far reaches of, out in the boonies or whatever, they’re gonna come in and they’re gonna get the same level of care that … President Trump would get if he happened to stop by. But that requires money,” he acknowledges.

EMTALA is a federal mandate imposed upon CMS certified hospitals and requires the healthcare facility to medically screen and stabilize all patients who come through its doors regardless of their ability to pay.