Hospitals can be held financially responsible when their patients suffer medical complications, injury or death from the medical care provided through their facility. Hospitals, through the appropriate administrators, must act reasonably and uphold proper standards of care for their patients. First, a hospital must use reasonable care in the maintenance of safe and adequate facilities and equipment. Second, a hospital must select and retain only competent physicians. Third, a hospital must oversee all persons who practice medicine within its walls as to patient care. Finally, a hospital must formulate, adopt and enforce adequate rules and policies to ensure quality care for its patients.
When a patient suffers harm from substandard medical services, the hospital is responsible for the harm if the hospital knew or should have known about the defects or procedures that were a substantial factor in bringing about the harm. A hospital is not responsible for every medical complication, injury or death suffered by its patients. Whether a hospital will be liable for harm to a patient depends mostly upon whether the hospital acted reasonably with respect to the medical services provided. Some examples of hospital negligence have included: inadequate triage systems, inadequate supervision of individuals involved with medical care, inadequate policies for obtaining medical clearance and inadequate systems for record keeping.
A hospital, HMO or physician can also be responsible for the negligence of other medical providers when the patients reasonably believe that the hospital, HMO or physician is treating them. This is referred to as vicarious liability or ostensible agency. This situation frequently occurs with medical services provided at an Emergency Room when the treating medical providers are not technically employees of the hospital. When a hospital, HMO or physician holds another medical provider out as its employee either by its actions or omissions, it will be financially responsible for the negligence of that medical provider.