Methodist Hospital violated federal rules when it transferred a pregnant woman in premature labor to another hospital last fall, according to an investigation by the state Office of Health Facility Complaints.

The report, released Wednesday, cited Methodist for failing to document that the woman was properly assessed in the emergency room before she was transferred. The woman, who was 25 weeks pregnant, arrived at the hospital in St. Louis Park by ambulance after her water broke.

Jeremiah Whitten, a spokesman for Methodist Hospital, said the staff was "acting in the best interests of the patient and the unborn child." But he acknowledged that "we did not follow the exact requirements of [federal law] and did not file the appropriate paperwork."

Whitten said the physician involved had been notified that the woman was en route and recommended that she be taken instead to Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis because it has an intensive care unit for premature newborns. Methodist does not.

However, the ambulance showed up at Methodist 10 minutes later. There was no record that she was examined there before she was transferred, as required by federal law, the investigative report found.

The Methodist physician, who was not identified, told investigators that she spent "five minutes or longer" with the patient and "conducted a full assessment" before concluding that she was stable and not in labor, the report said. But the doctor acknowledged that she didn't document the evaluation, or notify Abbott that the patient was heading its way. Whitten said the doctor assumed that the ambulance service would notify Abbott.

The woman, who was not identified, was hospitalized at Abbott for 12 days before she checked herself out "against medical advice." No additional information was available about the outcome of her pregnancy because the state investigator was unable to reach her for the report.

Technically, hospitals can lose Medicare funds, an important source of revenue for most hospitals, if they violate federal rules. But Whitten said that Methodist officials submitted a "corrective action plan" to resolve the issue, and has since retrained its emergency room staff about complying with those rules.

Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384