BOSTON (AP) _ Hospital officials said Thursday they have been receiving patients, including victims of automobile accidents, who were refused treatment at other hospitals by doctors protesting increased malpractice insurance rates.

Four patients were transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital overnight Thursday, said hospital spokesman Martin Bander. Three had been injured in car accidents, while the fourth had fallen down stairs. All apparently were refused treatment by orthopedists at the original hospital.

''They are being seen here,'' said Sandra Gandsman, spokeswoman for Norwood Hospital, where orthopedic surgeons had refused to treat two of the patients sent to Massachusetts General.

''If it is deemed not a life-threatening situation, then they are being sent to Boston hospitals,'' she said.

The two other patients transferred to Massachusetts General on Thursday originally had been taken to Winchester Hospital and J.B. Thomas Hospital in Peabody, Bander said.

Another orthopedic patient had been transferred to his hospital on Saturday, the day the job action by orthopedists and and obstetricians began, Bander said.

''If that were to continue at that rate, that would be a significant increase for orthopedic patients,'' he said.

If the doctors' action continues, it could hurt Norwood Hospital economically, Ms. Gandsman said.

''You would say it's beginning to show an impact because patients are not being admitted to our hospital. Over the long run there's bound to be some repercussions,'' she said.

Two other Boston hospitals also reported receiving patients who were refused treatment elsewhere.

''It hasn't been a major influx. It's only been a handful, maybe four patients,'' said Michele Cody, spokeswoman for New England Medical Center.

University Hospital said it had treated three patients this week who had been refused treatment at Norwood Hospital.

''They were all seen by our orthopedic people,'' said hospital spokesman Norm Sherman.

In a survey taken Monday of about 90 of the state's 114 acute-care hospitals, 102 obstetricians said they were refusing new cases and 132 orthopedic surgeons said they were not doing any surgery, emergency or otherwise, according to the Massachusetts Hospitals Association. There are about 500 obstetricians statewide.

The doctors' protest has been limited to suburban Boston and to hospitals in communities north and south of the metropolitan area, including Cape Cod, according to the association.

Both the hospital association and the Massachusetts Medical Society, which represents doctors, said they were preparing a legislative package for state lawmakers aimed at alleviating the major increaes in malpractice insurance rates. The increases were announced last December by the state-created insurance agency that insures most Massachusetts doctors.

Doctors at hospitals affiliated with Harvard University, including Massachusetts General, are covered by a separate malpractice insurance agency and are not a part of the protest.