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Tacoma patients decry lack of charity care by CHI Franciscan

The following is from SEIU HealthCare 1199NW:

TACOMA (Oct. 5, 2017) — One patient was denied charity care because of a CHI Franciscan paperwork error. One patient was struggling with a low credit rating resulting from a $500 bill from CHI Franciscan — which he paid and was given a receipt for.  One patient discontinued needed cancer treatments and tests due to the cost. Stories all pointed to how CHI Franciscan, a Catholic charitable nonprofit hospital chain, fails to provide needed charity care to Tacoma patients, including its own staff.

At a packed community forum on Tuesday night, patients and caregivers shared their stories about the CHI Franciscan “charity care” financial aid policy, including its burdensome application for aid and its aggressive collections practices toward patients it does not aid. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson recently sued CHI Franciscan St. Joseph Hospital for failing to provide legally-required financial assistance.

“I was denied financial assistance even though based on the criteria I qualified for Charity Care,” said Summerlove Holcomb, a CNA at CHI Franciscan St. Joseph Hospital. “Due to my health condition I have many medical bills in collection and have been having my wages garnished by my own employer CHI for quite some time now, even currently as I speak.”

Caregivers, many of whom cannot afford the high cost of the health plan provided by CHI Franciscan, reported that their wages were being garnished for medical debt owed to the very non-profit hospital at which they work.

“I had my surgery, and a few months later I have a bill of over $16,000,” said Janet Lagour, a dietary worker from St. Joseph Hospital.  “I tried to make payment plans, but they wanted too much money at that time and they didn’t want to work with what I was able to pay, so they send me to collections, where I ended up paying over $23,000 dollars, paying $500 a month over 5 years.”

Community leaders listened and respond to patient stories, calling on CHI Franciscan to do right by Tacoma’s patients.

“I am so done with the medical-industrial complex making millions of dollars from people in this district and not providing the charity care that they are required to provide,” said State Representative Laurie Jinkins.

Attendees pledged to take the fight for better financial assistance to the CEO of CHI Franciscan St. Joseph Hospital, Ketul Patel, with phone calls and petitions.

“Our systems are supposed to provide care with compassion,” said Professor Dexter Gordon.  “What we are hearing in these stories…  is a lack of compassion.  We need to keep pushing these systems to do better.”

SEIU Healthcare 1199NW is 29,000 nurses, healthcare workers, and mental health workers in Washington state, including more than 900 caregivers at CHI Franciscan St. Joseph Hospital, united to improve our jobs and the care we give.

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