Can a hospital refuse to admit a patient? It’s worth knowing

Can a hospital refuse to admit a patient?  It's worth knowing

Although a hospital seems to be a place where help will always be provided to the patient, it turns out that there are some exceptions. We explain whether the hospital can refuse to admit a patient.

People who cannot achieve the goal of treatment in any other way are referred to hospital. A visit to the hospital may result from the need for treatment or necessary tests. However, when being referred to a hospital, a patient may be concerned about whether the facility will accept him. Can this happen?

Can a hospital refuse to admit a patient?

The doctor decides whether the patient will be admitted to hospital. It does this based on the assessment of the patient’s condition – whether he or she requires immediate or planned admission. If it is a planned admission, the doctor sets a date for when the sick person should be admitted to the hospital.

Although a patient’s referral to a hospital obliges the facility to admit him, there are exceptions. This means that the hospital may refuse hospitalization. However, the refusal must be confirmed in writing – the doctor then issues a card refusing to admit the patient to the hospital.

When can a hospital refuse to admit a patient?

A hospital may refuse to admit a patient for several reasons. One of them is a situation when the facility is unable to provide appropriate assistance. However, if hospitalization is necessary, but the hospital does not have a specialized department or vacancies, it indicates to the patient another facility where he or she can get help. The reason for refusal may also be the doctor’s assessment that the person does not require admission to the hospital – this happens when a person comes to the hospital whose condition does not threaten his life or health and does not require immediate medical intervention. A written refusal card is then issued.

The hospital may also refuse to admit a patient when:

  • the benefit is not related to an emergency,

  • the patient has not previously signed up on the waiting list (in the case of planned procedures),

  • the patient does not have a valid referral.

When is a hospital obliged to provide assistance to a patient?

The hospital cannot refuse to provide health services to a person who needs immediate assistance due to a threat to life or health. There are no exceptions to this rule. The same rule applies to whether a doctor can refuse to see a patient.

There is also a question whether the Emergency Department can refuse to admit a patient. According to the National Health Fund, in cases of sudden health threats, health care services are provided immediately in emergency rooms (IP) and hospital emergency departments (EDs). “A state of sudden health threat should be understood as a state consisting in the sudden or expected soon appearance of symptoms of health deterioration, the direct consequence of which may be serious damage to body functions or bodily injury or loss of life, requiring immediate medical rescue activities and treatment” – reads announcement on the website of the National Health Fund.

What should a hospital admission refusal card contain?

A patient’s hospital admission refusal card should contain several important elements. It is:

  • date,

  • facility stamp,

  • facility address and telephone number,

  • name, surname and signature of the person who refuses admission to hospital,

  • reason for refusing admission to hospital.

The hospital admission refusal card should be handed to the patient immediately (most hospitals also issue it in electronic form). If the patient feels that the refusal to be admitted to the hospital was unjustified, he or she may file a complaint to the hospital director, a branch of the National Health Fund and the Patient Ombudsman.

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