Sutter Health, Sacramento, Calif., is the latest not-for-profit hospital operator to be hit in a wave of class-action lawsuits brought on behalf of uninsured patients. At least 19 not-for-profit hospitals or health systems in 12 states have been sued since June 17 in litigation orchestrated by Mississippi lawyer Richard Scruggs, best known for successfully challenging Big Tobacco. A suit filed in federal court in San Francisco against 26-hospital Sutter accuses the system of charging "unfair and unreasonable" prices and using "coercive, unfair and fraudulent collection methods," such as lawsuits and negative credit reports. "Even a cursory review (of the suit) reveals some glaring errors in fact, and we certainly intend to vigorously disprove those at the appropriate point," Sutter spokesman Bill Gleeson said. Earlier this year, Sutter hospitals were criticized for their pricing practices in separate reports issued by Health Access California, a not-for profit consumer group, and Local 250 of the Service Employees International Union.
Separately, 442-bed Jewish Hospital, Louisville, Ky., held a news conference to defend its reputation after more than 20 lawsuits were filed in Jefferson County State Court alleging that unsafe and unsanitary conditions at Jewish Hospital allowed antibiotic resistant bacteria to spread. Attorney Joe White, who filed the suits on behalf of 24 patients, including one who died, said the patients allege that the hospital was "very dirty and the care given was very poor." Jewish Hospital spokeswoman Linda McGinity Jackson said the allegations weren't substantiated by state health department inspectors and other infection-control experts, including the former director of the hospital infections program at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We take huge offense to these allegations," McGinity Jackson said. -- by Mary Chris Jaklevic and Mark Taylor