Lawsuit Targets ETMC

East Texas Medical Center is one of a dozen healthcare facilities across the country named in a recent class action lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Marshall Wednesday. It accuses ETMC of abusing its not- for- profit status by, among other things, actively seeking payment from indigent patients.

ETMC Vice President of Marketing/Planning, Mike Thomas responded to the lawsuit saying:

"One of the East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System's highest priorities is our commitment and approach to meeting our not-for-profit responsibility to deliver charity care. We have established and consistently implemented a formal policy to make certain that all patients who do not have the ability to pay receive charity (care)"

The statement goes on to say:

"ETMCRHS is the leading provider of charity care in East Texas. IN 2003 we provided $91 million of charity care and in 2004 it will exceed $100 million. Overall, uncompensated care represents 11% of our patient activity."

Hospitals in seven other states are facing similar lawsuits all spearheaded by Mississippi attorney Richard F. Scruggs. Scruggs' name become widely known in class action judgments against major tobacco companies.

ETMC officials said they were surprised at the accusations, and are confident they exceed state requirements of a not-for-profit hospital.

Chris Gibson, reporting