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Probe finds CA hospital chain has high rate of ER transfers

San Francisco Chronicle, July 26, 2011

A California hospital chain has boosted its profits by transferring an unusually high number of patients from its emergency rooms to its hospital beds, gaining hundreds of millions of dollars by targeting people with Medicare, a California Watch investigation has found. Patients and their families have described feeling trapped by doctors and administrators working at Prime Healthcare Services facilities. They entered the emergency room and were stuck in a "Twilight Zone," as one family member described it, unable to see their own doctor at another facility or faced with treatment that seemed unnecessary. The patients came to Prime hospitals with legitimate medical problems. But they ended up targets of a business strategy meant to maximize the number of insured patients treated in hospitals owned by the company, according to an analysis of state data, interviews and a review of 2,700 pages of court and public testimony.