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For Patients & Visitors

Patient Bill of Rights

Contents Your Rights as a Hospital Patient in New York State

  • About Your Rights
  • About Your Special Needs
  • Concerns / Problems / Complaints About Your Hospital Care
  • If You Think You Are Being Asked to Leave the Hospital Too Soon
  • You Have the Right to File a Complaint About:
  • Doctors or Physician Assistants
  • Other Health Care Professionals
  • Questions or Complaints About Your Hospital Bill / Health Insurance
  • Access to Your Medical Records

Your Rights as a Hospital Patient in New York State

The state and federal governments require that all hospital patients in New York State be given certain information and materials when admitted to a hospital. This booklet collects all that information in one place, explains your rights as a patient and contains advice on how best to get assistance.

The first section explains your rights as a hospital patient in New York State. It also contains a Glossary to help you understand some terms you may hear while you are in the hospital.

The second section presents each document that the law requires you receive as a patient in a hospital in New York State.

About Your Rights

As a patient in a New York State hospital, you have certain rights and protections guaranteed by state and federal laws. These regulations exist to help ensure the quality and safety of your hospital care. To help you understand your rights, the New York State Department of Health and its Consumer Health Information Council have developed this.

You have the right to participate in decisions about your health care and to understand what you are being told about your care and treatment. For example, you are entitled to a clear explanation of tests, treatments and drugs prescribed for you. Don't hesitate to ask questions of your doctor, nurse or hospital staff members. You have a right to know what's going on. Every patient is unique, every hospital stay is different. It is important to know what specific rights apply to you and what to do if you feel you need help. Some rights and protections, such as those that govern when you leave the hospital, depend on receiving correct written notices and knowing when and where to call or write for help.

If you have a problem or if you don't understand something, speak to your nurse, doctor, social worker or patient representative. They can:

  • Help you get answers
  • Arrange special help
  • Make contacts with your family
  • Get foreign language and sign language interpreters
  • Generally make your hospital stay easier

About Your Special Needs

Each hospital must make available staff to explain or answer questions about your rights and to provide information on how you can protect those rights. If you are hearing or vision impaired, or if English is not your first language, skilled interpreters must be provided to assist you in exercising your rights. Translations and / or transcriptions of important hospital forms, instructions and information must be provided to you if you feel you need them.

But you must speak up and ask questions.

You can contact a patient representative before you enter the hospital to be sure your special arrangements are made when you get there. If you have a question about any of the information or feel that your needs have not been adequately met, ask the patient representative or other hospital staff person for further explanation or contact the New York State Department of Health.

Concerns/Problems/Complaints about Your Hospital Care

If you have a concern, problem or complaints related to any aspect of care during your hospital stay speak to your doctor, nurse or hospital staff member. If you have concern or complaints related to your care please call our Performance Improvement Department at 315-769-4214 or write to Performance Improvement, Massena Memorial Hospital, 1 Hospital Drive, Massena, NY 13662. If you would like to email a concern or complaint, please email jfarnsworth@massenahospital.org.   If hospital staff cannot resolve the problem, you may contact the New York State Department of Health office in your area for assistance. This area office can advise you about what to do if you have specific complaints, problems or questions best handled by another agency. The addresses and telephone numbers of the New York State

Department of Health area offices follow:

Western Region

Buffalo Office
584 Delaware Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14202-1295
Phone: (716) 847-4357

Rochester Office
42 South Washington Street
Rochester, NY 14608-2099
Phone: (716) 423-8053

Metropolitan Region

New York City Office
5 Penn Plaza
New York, NY 10001-1803
Phone: (212) 613-4855

New Rochelle Office
145 Huguenot Street-6th floor
New Rochelle, NY 10801-5291
Phone: (914) 632-3701

Hauppauge Office
300 Motor Parkway
Hauppauge, NY 11788
Phone: (516) 231-1880

Syracuse Office
217 South Salina Street
Syracuse, NY 13202-3592
Phone: (315) 426-7696

Northeastern Office
Frear Building
2 Third Street-2nd floor
Troy, NY 12180-3298
Phone: (518) 271-2680

If You Think You Are Being Asked to Leave the Hospital Too Soon...

You have the right to appeal decisions made by your doctor, hospital staff or your managed care plan:

  • About when you are to leave the hospital
  • If you feel you are being asked to leave the hospital too soon
  • If you believe you have not been given adequate or appropriate plans for your medical care and other services you may need after you leave the hospital
  • If needed services are not in place

The law requires that you receive advance notice in writing telling you:

  • The date the physician and/or hospital plans to discharge you
  • How to appeal if you wish to remain in the hospital
  • A special number to call with any problems related to leaving the hospital
  • For Assistance/Help

There is an Independent Professional Review Agent (IPRA) for your area and your insurance coverage. Should you need assistance/help from the IPRA, the hospital will provide you with a phone number/person to contact.

For Medicare Patients Only

If you feel that you are being asked to leave the hospital too soon and have not received advance notice telling you when to leave the hospital, you should ask for your discharge notice (also called a Hospital Issued Notice of Noncoverage or HINN).

You must have this written discharge notice in order to appeal the physician's and hospital's decision about when you are to leave.

For Managed Care Patients

If you are a patient enrolled in an HMO or managed care plan, you have the right to an expedited review process if you feel your benefits are unfairly limited or denied, or you are being asked to leave the hospital too soon, or that medically necessary services are inappropriately excluded from your coverage. You have the right to file a grievance and make an oral complaint by calling 1-800-206-8125.

The Managed Care Law of 1996 amending Public Health Law 4408,

Disclosure of Information.

You Have the Right to File A Complaint About:

Doctors or Physician Assistants

If you feel that you have received incompetent, negligent or fraudulent care from a doctor or physician assistant, you may file a report with the New York State Department of Health Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC). OPMC investigates all reports of possible professional misconduct by physicians and physician assistants. Reports must include the full name and address of the doctor or physician assistant and all relevant information and must be made in writing to:

New York State Department of Health
Office of Professional Medical Conduct
Hedley Park Place, Suite 303
433 River Street
Troy, New York 12180-2299

Reports are kept confidential. An investigation may result in a formal hearing before a committee of the board for Professional Medical Conduct. The board consists of physicians and consumer members appointed by the Commissioner of Health.

Examples of "medical misconduct" by a doctor or physician assistant can be found in the Glossary.

Health Care Professionals

If you feel you received incompetent, negligent or fraudulent care from any other licensed health care professionals, such as nurses, dentists, social workers, optometrists, psychologists, physical or occupational therapists and podiatrists, you may file a complaint by contacting:

New York State Education Department
Office of Professional Discipline
One Park Avenue
New York, New York 10016 (800) 442-8106

Questions or Complaints About Your Hospital Bill / Health Insurance

As a hospital patient, you are entitled to an itemized bill.

Your hospital bill may identify a charge called a "surcharge." These surcharges fund important public programs and have existed in previous years, although they may not have shown as separate costs on the bill. The surcharge represents an additional amount due on total hospital bills in New York State and, depending on your insurance contract, the Law allows a portion of these costs to be billed to you.

Hospitals may negotiate payment rates with insurers, HMO's and other types of managed care plans. These rates may vary and your insurer can answer any question you may have regarding your coverage.

There are many variations in insurance policies and plans. If you still have questions do not hesitate to ask questions of your hospital and of your insurance company. It is your right.

If you have questions about your coverage, the services billed or amounts paid, you should work with the hospital's billing office and your insurer to resolve any questions/problems that you may have.

For Medicare Patients

If you are a Medicare patient and have questions about your hospital bill, you may call: 1-800-331-7767

Managed Care Patients

If you are enrolled in a managed care plan and you are having trouble getting care or feel your care is not good, you can complain to the plan. The plan's handbook MUST tell you how to complain and how to get an immediate review. You may also place a complaint by calling: 1-800-206-8125.

Access to Your Medical Records

New York State law requires all health care practitioners and facilities to grant patients access to their own medical records (there are a few exceptions). Patients may request information, as may parents or guardians who have authorized their child's care. If you want to see your medical records, ask your doctor and/or the director of medical records at the hospital. New York State law guarantees you the opportunity to inspect your medical records within 10 days of your request.

If you want to have a copy of your medical records, you must submit a written request to the hospital. Address the request to the director of medical records at the hospital. If you request a copy of your records, the hospital may charge you up to 75 cents per page. If the hospital fails to acknowledge or act on your request, you may complain to your local New York State Department of Health office. If you have been denied access to all or part of your records, or if you would like more information, write to the New York State Department of Health office in your area for assistance.