Franken Hearing Wednesday to Focus on Fairview Collection Tactics
Twin Cities, 5/29/12
By Christopher Snowbeck | 5/29/2012
One of the witnesses scheduled to testify during a U.S. Senate field hearing about collection tactics at Fairview Health Services offered a preview of her comments on Tuesday, May 29.
Jean Ross said the collection issue surfaced when her grandson was being treated in 2010 at Fairview Ridges Hospital in Burnsville, after the 13-month-old boy had been rushed to the emergency room with what turned out to be an acute inflammation of the brain called encephalitis.
In a news release issued Tuesday by the Minnesota Nurses Association, Ross recalled how she left her grandson for a few minutes and returned to find her daughter weeping, shaking and unable to control herself.
"I was sure the doctor had stepped into the room while I was out taking a bathroom break and delivered devastating news about my grandson," said Ross, a leader of a national nurse union group, in the news release. "My daughter explained to me that while I was gone, a woman had slipped into the room and asked her if she wanted to pay all or a portion of her bill right now."
Ross is scheduled to testify Wednesday during a field hearing at the state Capitol about patient access to care and privacy that's being led by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. In April, Franken sent a detailed list of questions about collection tactics at Fairview to leaders of Accretive Health, the Chicago-based company that worked for two years at the Minneapolis-based system on billing and collection issues.
Fairview and Accretive were the subject of a scathing report released in April by Attorney General Lori Swanson. Swanson is scheduled to testify at Wednesday's hearing along with an Accretive Health official and Mark Eustis, the retiring chief executive officer at Fairview who hired the Chicago-based company.
Ross, the nurse union leader who worked at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina for 35 years, is also scheduled to testify.
Ross said in the news release that her daughter had another run-in with collections staff at Fairview Ridges after giving birth to her daughter in February 2012. That was just after Fairview broke its contract with Accretive Health on billing matters.
"My daughter did not need that type of stress right after giving birth," Ross said in the news release. "Nor did she need to be harassed by a debt collector when she was a nervous wreck worrying about her 13-month-old son inside the ER. What happened in both instances was inexcusable."
A Fairview spokesman did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. A spokeswoman for Accretive Health offered no comment.
Minnesota Nurses Association Press Release:
Sen. Franken Asks MNA RN Jean Ross to Testify About Nightmare Experience with Accretive Health
Before Jean Ross could open the door to the Fairview Ridges Hospital room, she heard the sound: Her daughter was weeping and shaking, unable to calm herself. Ross, who had spent more than three decades as a nurse in the Fairview system, much of that time in the ER, feared the worst as she stepped inside.
“I was sure the doctor had stepped into the room while I was out taking a bathroom break and delivered devastating news about my grandson,” said Ross, a longtime Minnesota nurse and one of the presidents of National Nurses United, the nation’s largest union of professional nurses.
Imagine Ross’ surprise when she learned the reason that her daughter was so distraught had nothing to do with the status of Ross’ grandson, who was 13 months old at the time and had been rushed to the ER earlier that night with what turned out to be encephalitis – an acute inflammation of the brain.
“My daughter explained to me that while I was gone, a woman had slipped into the room and asked her if she wanted to pay all or a portion of her bill right now,” Ross said.
The incident was one of many that have come to light in recent weeks after Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson released a scathing report about debt collectors badgering patients and family members inside Fairview hospitals.
Ross, who spent 35 years as a nurse at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina, has been asked by Sen. Al Franken to testify at tomorrow’s U.S. Senate field hearing inside the Minnesota State Capitol. The hearing, which begins at 10 a.m. in Room 15 of the Capitol, is being conducted to examine if current federal laws effectively protect patients’ access to care and privacy.
“It was a nightmare experience,” Ross said of the 2010 incident. “What’s even worse is that the same thing happened to my daughter again a couple of years later.”
When Ross’ daughter gave birth to her third child at Fairview Ridges’ hospital in February 2012, another debt collector entered her room unannounced and unwelcomed, asking Ross’ daughter to pay all or a portion of her bill.
“My daughter did not need that type of stress right after giving birth,” Ross said. “Nor did she need to be harassed by a debt collector when she was a nervous wreck worrying about her 13-month-old son inside the ER. What happened in both instances was inexcusable.”
The fallout continues from the Attorney General’s probe, which highlighted Fairview CEO Mark Eustis’ close family ties to Accretive Health, the for-profit company Swanson blamed for the collection practices. Eustis, who was instrumental in bringing Accretive Health into Fairview’s hospitals, has a son who works for the firm.
Late last week, Fairview’s board severed its ties with Eustis, voting not to renew his contract.
Ross said she hopes her testimony to Sen. Franken helps ensure the type of behavior exhibited inside Fairview’s hospital rooms never happens again.
“As a mother and a nurse, you never want to see a patient or family member who is already in pain or distress be harassed like that,” she said. “I understand the financial side of running a hospital, believe me. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to handle things. And I don’t think I’m alone in saying the way Fairview handled things was wrong in every sense of the word.”
WHAT: US Senate Field Hearing
WHEN: Wednesday, May 30 at 10 a.m.
WHERE: Room 15, Minnesota State Capitol, St. Paul
Read more at the Minnesota Nurses Association blog.Back to News »