More hospitals come under fire - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

More hospitals come under fire

August 27, 2004

Tifton- It's business as usual at Tift Regional Medical Center, and hospitals officials say it will stay that way.

"We feel like these lawsuits are misguided and are unnecessarily expensive," says Tift Regional Medical Center Marketing Director Chris Efaw.

He also says the suits are taking the focus off of the real issue.

"There's 44 million Americans out there without health insurance and about 1.3 million Georgians alone, and this is rising. All these lawsuits do is divert attention away from that," says Efaw.

Not only do hospital officials say the case is without merit, but they say it's costing them money that they'd rather use on patient care.

In a statement released Thursday, Tift Regional CEO William Richardson says: "The irony is that these attorneys want to seize the very assets Tift Regional Medical Center has set aside to meet the growing medical needs of all citizens of our community, including the uninsured."

"Last year alone we spent over $15.1 million in charitable and indigent care, and about another $7.1 million in bad debt expense alone," says Efaw.

"I can't debate Tift Generals allegation that oh we do A, B, C and D for indigents. They may be right, but whatever the figure is you have to compare that to how much they have accumulated, and I think most people would agree that if the accumulation exceeds what's coming back to indigent care, then you got a problem," says Attorney Robert Beauchamp.

Beauchamp has also filed suit against hospitals in Columbus, Macon, Thomasville, Americus, Albany, and Valdosta.

"Tift General like other non-profit hospitals in the state of Georgia have gotten the benefit of being a non-profit organization for dozens of years and have accumulated great sums of money," Beauchamp says.

That's money that Beauchamp says should have gone to treating the indigent and uninsured.

The suit against the hospitals has been filed in superior court. It is similar but not related to the federal lawsuits against 400 other hospitals. Phoebe Putney is named in both suits.

Posted at 5:30 PM by elaine.armstrong@walb.com

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