PolitiFact rates an ad run by the shadowy 527 groups Florida First Initiative entitled “Refused,” aimed at former healthcare executive and Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott, as “barely true.”
The ad claims that Scott’s hospitals at Columbia/HCA refused emergency room care for poor, sick, and even pregnant women. The final charge is that a Columbia/HCA hospital refused treatment for a poor man and left him to die.
The ad attributes the allegation to an ABC News 20/20 interview from Sept. 26, 1997. We found no reference in the 20/20 transcript to “they even turned away a poor man and left him to die outside their door.” We also searched a newspaper database and found no references to those exact words. …
On the day he died, Anguiano was found unconscious on the lawn of a hotel and taken by ambulance to Columbia Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas. Meyer gave him a full physical, but decided against further tests, according to court records. Anguiano had not eaten in three days and had been drinking and smoking marijuana. He was given some juice and crackers, and hospital security escorted him out. He was found dead on the hospital grounds two hours later.
Hospital officials said Meyer treated Anguiano for roughly seven minutes, which violated hospital rules, according to court records.
Meyer was suspended. She sued the hospital and lost. The Nevada Supreme Court eventually concluded the hospital acted with the reasonable belief that it was furthering quality care.
Hospital officials said they worried Anguiano’s death might be seen as new evidence of “patient dumping,” or refusal to treat patients in need of emergency care, according to court records. Federal law prohibits emergency rooms from turning away patients because they don’t have insurance.
Columbia Sunrise had already been under investigation for denying care to uninsured patients after a homeless person passed out at a casino shortly after being released from the hospital in 1994, according to multiple news reports. Federal officials threatened to take away the hospital’s Medicare contract until a second investigation a few weeks later found the hospital was providing emergency beds to the uninsured.
Columbia Sunrise wasn’t the only Columbia/HCA hospital hounded by reports of patient dumping. From 1988 to 1997, Columbia/HCA was fined at least $180,000 for alleged patient dumping violations at eight hospitals, according to news accounts. In all of those settlements, the company did not admit wrongdoing.
Where does all that leave us? We know a former Columbia/HCA executive did complain about the company’s alleged penchant for patient dumping. In several interviews, he discussed the death of Adolph Anguiano, a homeless man who was found on hospital property. Court records confirm Anguiano died outside a Columbia/HCA hospital and that the hospital was under scrutiny for mistreating poor patients.
But Anguiano was not turned away, as the ad claims. He received some care before he was shown the door. Also, court records state Anguiano wasn’t intentionally left to die.
So while what happened to Anguiano is an ugly tale, it is not as ugly as the story portrayed in the attack ad. We rule this Barely True.
Here’s the ad:
“Refused” is one of two attack ads from 527s that have targeted Scott for his tenure at Columbia/HCA. The campaign for Scott’s opponent, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, has been implicated in soliciting contributions for Florida First Initiative, an act that is unlawful according to Florida election law.