As California hospitals face increased patient volumes due to the Omicron variant surge, CHA reminds members that it is permissible to post signage outside the emergency department directing the public to alternative COVID-19 testing locations.
Specifically, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) April 20 Frequently Asked Questions for Hospitals and Critical Access Hospitals regarding EMTALA states that under current public health emergency waivers, hospitals “may encourage the public to go to off-campus sites to be screened for COVID-19 instead of the hospital.”
CMS reiterates that it is a violation of EMTALA for hospitals with emergency departments to use signage that presents barriers to individuals, including those who are suspected of having COVID-19, from coming to the emergency department. However, signage directing the public to testing sites is allowed and a practice that hospitals throughout the country are currently utilizing.
There may be local health orders in effect regarding testing that could also affect the hospital’s obligation to provide testing, so hospitals may want to confirm whether any of those are applicable in addition prior to posting such signage.