The number one goal and responsibility of every hospital is to take care of people. That means getting patients the care they need when they need it and, according to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, in the emergency department that means screening and stabilization every patient who comes through those doors. Recently, the spotlight has been placed on incidents in other states in which the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement entered hospitals in search of a patient. In one case, an undocumented 10-year-old girl in Texas who was being transferred to one hospital to another in an ambulance was detained by ICE agents.
While there has been no such case in Maryland as of yet, the incident caused concern: what are the rights of government agents looking for undocumented patients, what are the patients’ rights, and what are the rights of hospitals? To help answer those questions, MHA’s Thursday morning Member Call yesterday focused on guidance provided by Maryland’s Office of the Attorney General in response to a request by Delegates Brooke Lierman and Joseline Pena-Melnyk. The guidance included ICE’s own policy, which considers hospitals to be, along with schools, churches and other health care centers, “sensitive locations” where arrests, interviews, searches and surveillance should not occur, with some exceptions, including “when there is an immediate need for enforcement action.” The call was informative, with Sandra Brantley and Zenita Hurley from the AG’s office sharing helpful tools and resources that can help establish best practices and training, including:
Take a look at the Attorney General’s Office guidelines and resources, and be sure to seek the guidance of your hospital’s legal counsel. And rest assured that MHA staff will continue watching this issue closely.