1. Health

Federal officials fine St. Petersburg's Northside Hospital for turning away patient

Published Aug. 15, 2012

ST. PETERSBURG — Northside Hospital has been slapped with a $38,000 fine by the federal Office of Inspector General for turning away a feverish patient with a history of heart problems.

The patient, who was not identified, eventually died.

In late July 2009, an ambulance brought the patient, who had an artificial heart valve, to the emergency room of the St. Petersburg hospital, according to state and federal records. Despite his fever and flu symptoms, a triage nurse sent the patient home with instructions to follow the orders of his primary care physician.

Two days later, the patient returned to the Northside emergency room complaining of shortness of breath and was admitted into intensive care. He died on Aug. 8, 2009.

Federal law mandates that hospitals care for all patients in emergency situations, regardless of their ability to pay. The patient's treatment at Northside was reported to state and federal officials, and the OIG announced its fine in March.

State officials also investigated the case and cited Northside for several instances of deficient care. The case received national attention Tuesday in a New York Times article investigating the business practices of the HCA hospital chain, which owns Northside as well as eight other Tampa Bay area hospitals.

Northside officials did not return calls for comment.