Download a pdf version of our Discharge Rights Fact Sheet here.
Discharge Planning refers to the process by which hospital staff, including social workers, nurses, and physicians, help prepare patients to leave the hospital. Discharge planning services may include helping patients understand their diagnoses and medication needs or facilitating their transfer from the hospital to nursing homes or rehabilitative centers. In the medical deportation context, hospital staff may discharge undocumented patients, many of whom have serious continuing health care needs, without adequate planning and preparation. These patients may find themselves transported back to their home countries unable to access the medical services they need to survive.
What Are Your Rights?
Under federal law, all hospitals must have a discharge planning process that applies to all patients – regardless of immigration or insurance status. Any patient (or patient representative) can request a discharge plan, even if hospital staff does not feel that one is necessary. Here are the hospital’s discharge responsibilities:
- The hospital must evaluate patients in a timely manner to determine if the patient will be negatively affected without adequate discharge planning.
- The hospital must discuss the results of the evaluation with the patient (or patient’s representative) and include a copy in the patient’s medical records.
- Upon request of the patient, a family member, or the patient’s doctor, hospital staff must help arrange for the services the patient needs following discharge.
- The hospital must reassess the appropriateness of the patient’s discharge plan if the patient’s medical needs change.
- The hospital must counsel the patient and patient’s family to help them prepare for discharge.
- The hospital must provide the patient with a list of home health aides or nursing facilities that serve the area the patient lives in and are available to the patient (if such services are specified in the patient’s discharge plan).
- Patients can only be discharged to “appropriate facilities, agencies, or outpatient services” that can meet the patients’ needs and comply with federal and state health and safety standards. This means the hospital cannot simply dump a patient, without helping the patient get the post-discharge care she needs. This requirement is particularly important in the medical deportation context where hospitals send patients back to their home countries without making sure that there are hospitals or agencies available to meet the patients’ needs.
If you have any questions about your discharge rights as they relate to the issue of medical deportation or otherwise, please contact New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) at 212-244-4664 and ask for the Health Justice Program.
To read more about your specific discharge rights in each state, please click here.