AAA Ambulances are parked Wesley Medical Center in this 2010 file photo. Wesley Medical Center has filed a lawsuit against AAA Ambulance CEO Wade Spruill and Forrest General Hospital alleging some patients were falsely classified as "trauma" patients and told they could only be taken to Forrest General Hospital, when they did not meet trauma criteria and could have received care at Wesley. / Hattiesburg American file photos

 

04/19/2012

 

Hospital Suing Ambulance Company For Diverting Patients

 Hattiesburg American

 

A lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court by Wesley Medical Center alleges improper practices by AAA Ambulance that have denied local residents a choice in treatment.

In the lawsuit filed against Wade Spruill, CEO of AAA Ambulance, and Forrest General Hospital, Wesley officials seek to halt what they deem improper patient transport.

In the suit, Wesley alleges that some patients were falsely classified as "trauma" patients and told they could only be taken to Forrest General Hospital, when they did not meet trauma criteria and could have received care at Wesley. Some were told Wesley did not have physician specialists or capabilities to care for their medical emergencies.

Wesley CEO Michael Neuendorf said he has met with Forrest General Hospital and AAA officials with no resolve, citing litigation as a "last resort."

"It really comes back to patient choice," he said. "We want to stop this inappropriate activity, and we want patient choice to be heard."

Forrest General Hospital officials declined to comment on the matter Tuesday afternoon. Attorney Jim Dukes, who represents both FGH and AAA ambulance, did not want to comment because he had not seen the lawsuit.

In the suit, officials at Wesley have requested injunctive relief and asked the court to stop the practice in the immediate time frame while determining the issues involved.

Wesley's lawsuit also asserts that AAA Ambulance, which is partly owned by Forrest General Hospital, has shown reckless disregard for patient choice, isolated federal and Mississippi law and caused harm to Wesley's reputation and business by ignoring patient requests, falsifying medical records, making defamatory statements about Wesley and intentionally violating the state's trauma system destination guidelines.

"The basis for this was brought about by patients and families coming to us. These are real examples of frustrations from community members," Neuendorf said. "Other individuals, families that experience this same thing, we'd like to hear their stories. At the end of the day, this is what it's all about."

The lawsuit also includes 10 examples of local residents who asked AAA Ambulance to transport them to Wesley Medical Center for emergency care but were taken to Forrest General Hospital instead.

"These stories continued to come in via telephone, in person, through physicians that are on staff that these patients have told the stories too," Neuendorf said.

"Some patients were transported via AAA when their preference was already made to be taken to Wesley Medical Center."

Bland Simmons, a retired Air Force colonel, said he requested to be taken to Wesley but was transported to Forrest General Hospital after falling in his assisted living home two years ago.

Simmons said he was a new resident at Provision Living, a senior housing facility near Wesley Medical Center.

Simmons said he had no problem with his care at Forrest General Hospital, but he had a long-standing relationship with Wesley.

"They never said they wouldn't take me but they radioed to their dispatcher. They mentioned the word trauma and said Wesley wouldn't accept me," he said.