Swedish to group opposing expansion: ‘Cease and desist’

Lawyers for the Swedish healthcare group have sent an “IMMEDIATE CEASE AND DESIST WARNING” to Washington Community Action Network (WA CAN), CHS has learned over the group’s efforts to fight the expansion of the Cherry Hill campus.

Swedish's 'Cease and desist' letter to WA CAN

Swedish’s ‘Cease and desist’ letter to WA CAN

On January 27th, three WA CAN organizers approached people in the waiting areas of Swedish’s Cherry Hill campus, handing out copies of both Swedish’s own charity care application and a WA CAN brochure about Swedish’s handling of medical debt. When a representative of Swedish’s management spotted them, he escorted the organizers out. The next day, the left-leaning community organizing group received a hand delivered letter from Swedish’s lawyers, which read in part:

you shall immediately cease and desist all activities on the Swedish Medical Center Cherry Hill Campus…[including] handing out any form of communication to hospital staff, patients or visitors, and speaking to any hospital staff, patients or visitors on any subject.

WA CAN organizer Xochitl Maykovich told CHS that WA CAN has been unsuccessfully trying to take its concerns (outlined in this white paper) to Swedish CEO Tony Armada for months. “In the interim,” she said, “we decided that people need to know about charity care, and so we gave patients in the waiting room…charity care applications…[And] we put a few on the ER [waiting area] table…We were very polite, and the people that I talked to, they were like, ‘Oh wow, thanks.'”

The poster advertising Swedish's charity care.

The poster advertising Swedish’s charity care.

“There’s no signage up about charity care,” Maykovich added. This is not accurate, at least currently: walking around the hospital, CHS was able to find one poster near the main Patient Services desk asking “Do you Qualify for Financial Assistance?” that listed a phone number for more information. And when we asked the Patient Services desk about charity care, they immediately handed over a “financial assistance” application. (According to Randall Huyck of the state Dept. of Health, that’s pretty much all that’s legally required.) On the other hand, CHS couldn’t find any other posters or advertisements, and staffers at two different information desks had no idea what we were talking about when asked about charity care.

Maykovich thinks the signs were put up recently as a response to her group’s presence.

Amir Islam, a Squire Park Community Council board member, was one of the volunteers with Maykovich. “We were giving out charity care applications,” he said “and getting people more informed on campus that they can actually get their medical debt forgiven.”

Vice President of the Swedish Neuroscience Institute Andy Cosentino, who asked the organizers to leave when he saw them on January 27th, sees thing differently. “We cannot permit the aggressive actions taken by WA CAN on Jan. 27,” he told CHS via email, “as this is a burden to our patients and our caregivers. We respect freedom of speech, but do not believe the care setting is an appropriate place — particularly when messages and approach are inflammatory, aggressive and inaccurate. Per our policy, solicitation is prohibited in our facilities.

“As you read [the WA CAN brochure],” Cosentino added added, “reflect on how a parent, who’s son or daughter is in surgery would feel when reading such a document.”

When asked what he meant by “aggressive actions,” Cosentino declined to elaborate: “Our recent communications [with CHS] explained the actions of WA CAN on our Cherry Hill campus.  We do not allow solicitation of this nature on our private property and we do not support WA CAN confronting patients and visitors in the hospital setting.” He also said that the hospital disputes claims in WA CAN’s brochure.

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23 thoughts on “Swedish to group opposing expansion: ‘Cease and desist’

  1. I’m not sure what the charity care program has to do with the proposed expansion. It appears that CAN is just trying to bug Swedish administration by informing people of the program, which impacts Swedish’s bottom line. Kind of a cheap shot.

    • If one thinks that hospitals are in it for the good of the people, then the neighborhood would appear as obstructing fine things. But that’s not the case, usually. It is the bottom line. It’s about sprawling campuses making oodles of $$ with more opportunities to make more. A person needs to read up on the health care industry; makes for terrifying reading. (I’ve worked for med centers for the last 30 years.)

      • Swedish isn’t an insurance company or Big Pharma. It’s a non-profit entity. In your scenario, who is “making oodles of $$” [sic]? Shareholders? There are none. Their top-payed employee, the CEO, earns $435K, which is $200K less than the CEO of the state-owned UW Medical Center and $800K less than the CEO of the state-owned Valley Medical Center. Maybe it’s all those greedy, greedy nurses?

        You can’t just drive-by and fire-out a “money-grubbing hospitals!” conspiracy theory without more specifics.

      • Actually, Christine H is right on the money. With the advent of all of the new regulations and changes due to the implementation of Obamacare, there is no such thing as a “nonprofit” healthcare institution any longer. The employees of Swedish may not see the money but the hospital most assuredly is now mandated to operate at a profit.

      • Gamer, you clearly don’t understand how non-profits operate or what the Affordable Care Act actually does. You claim that the Affordable Care Act mandates hospitals to operate at a profit is total bullshit.

      • I worked for many years for another “non-profit” healthcare system in the area. They were making money hand-over-fist all while enjoying their tax exempt status. Who was the money going to? All the top executives and the steady stream of “directors” hired in right beneath them. Also, fancy new offices and work retreats at every luxury resort within 1000 miles. Much religious, much money.

      • I belive that if you dig deeper you’ll realize two things:
        One: Swedish is now a wholely owned subsidiary of the Providence Health System and I can promise you from direct personal experiece that Prov Health squuezes each and every nickle possible. Providence Anchorage, a self identified Catholilc Institution fired the staff Catholic Priest & Nuns to save his salary while paying massive bonuses to upper managment.
        Two: Swedish is a Not For Profit corporation which is entirely different than Non-Profit. They can and do make a substantial profit, or they did until they started gobbling up everything they could around them, drove themselves into near insolvency and were aquired (quietly) by Providence. The profits these organizations generate are then shifted around to “cover costs” in other areas of the organization. Swedish does have a long tradition of Charity Care. They write off uncounted thousands of dollars in billable charges. Heck I have direct knowledge of people working within the Organization who have signed themselves up for and been approved for Charity Care while still working there.

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  3. This seems like a reasonable step by Swedish. CAN should feel at liberty to stand immediately adjacent to Swedish, off the property line, and hand-out material to their hearts content. It’s not the job of overworked nurses and physicians to try to vet content that randos are trying to shove at people as they’re waiting to get cut open for surgery. And vetting is what is required once you allow anyone in; or should the anti-vaccination crowd and energy healers also be allowed in the waiting room to provide patients other advice on alternate care options?

  4. When I visited the Swedish ER in early 2012, I saw one small sign giving a number to call for financial assistance. It’s probably safe to say the majority of ER visitors didn’t see it. I was fortunate to not be in too much discomfort to wander around the room looking at stuff. (The application process was somewhat complicated and required two return trips to their office, but ultimately it was worth the trouble. I ended up paying about $500 of a $6,000 bill.)

    • “When I visited the Swedish ER in early 2012, I saw one small sign”

      THe takeaway in your comment is that Maykovich was either lying or clueless in ref to “Maykovich thinks the signs were put up recently as a response to her group’s presence.”

    • I know that Swedish and Providence tell patients about the financial assistance programs. There is a brochure about it inserted into the patient information packets that are given to all inpatients. The information is provided in at least six other languages as well. Also a social worker visits any patient who does not have insurance to discuss this and help them. Care is not free, but significant financial assistance is available for those in need. In the past I have worked for both hospitals and I know they did this.
      Swedish is a non profit. It does make money, but ALL of it goes back into wages and salaries, technical equipment, which is hugely expensive and capital improvements. There are no shareholders. Salarys of professionals in health are good, but medical professional work very hard and are required to have elite educations.
      The State of Washington publishes charity care contribution by hospital. Just look under Washinton State Hospital Charity Care …it is all there online. In 2012 (the most recent reporting) Harborview led the state with 210 million dollars and Swedish First Hill was next with $57 million, Cherry Hill with $26 million. The 2 downtown Swedish hospitals together gave $93 million. This is public information and is easy to get. I think the fact checking should have included a review of this.
      I agree with Bob that this incursion into the hospital by the protestors has little to do with the planned expansion. I do think the neighbors have every right to expect input into changes in their area and to expect good architecture.

      • Thank you, Oldie, for stating more accurately how hospital finances/budgets actually work in a nonprofit setting. It’s easy to throw out statements like “hospitals are making money hand over fist,” but that erroneously implies that they are somehow behaving unscrupulously and enriching themselves above all other considerations. Yes, nonprofit hospitals do take in more money than they spend, but that’s a necessity when they want to stay in business, and as you say that money is spent on necessary things like capital improvements, expensive equipment, etc, not on some kind of lavish “lifestyle.” The salaries of top management, as stated in another comment, seem reasonable for such a demanding job.

      • Hi Oldie,

        Thanks for your feedback. There’s a link in the fourth paragraph (“white paper”) to WA CAN’s arguments for why they think Swedish’s charity care and other community benefits are suspect; included in that white paper are stories from people who say they had difficulty accessing Swedish’s charity care. Swedish’s response can be found in the link in the final para (“disputes”).

  5. “Staffers at two different information desks had no idea what we were talking about when asked about charity care.”

    That is because the information desk staff are volunteers who are not in any way involved in patient billing or any financial aspects of the hospital’s operations. If you want to discuss your account or your financial situation, you need to talk to hospital staff such as a patient service rep or financial counselor, but a part-time volunteer cannot reasonable be expected to provide that kind of detailed information.

    It’s called “fact checking,” CHS, please try it sometime.

    • Hi Peter,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m not really sure how fact checking is pertinent here. I mimicked the behavior of a clueless patient wandering around Swedish to see how much information about charity care was readily available, and I described what I found in the article.

  6. “Swedish to group opposing expansion: ‘Cease and desist’”
    This headline is deceiving, misleading. It reads as if Swedish is trying to muzzle opponents of their expansion when they are seeking to end disruptive and uninformed behavior on hospital property.
    The author seems unconcerned about truth, simply channeling the ignorant proclamations of protesters on a mission to blacken the reputation of Swedish. Many of the residents of this area work or have worked at Swedish and Cherry Hill. The author insults their service.
    The merits of the expansion should be addressed without muddling the discussion with ignorant(from both the author and the intruders) side issues.

    • Hi Dennis,

      Thanks for reading. Regarding the headline: take it up with my editor. Regarding the expansion: please see my prior coverage of that controversy [http://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2015/01/in-contentious-expansion-of-swedish-hospital-squire-park-neighbors-struggle-for-balance/].

      I’m sorry to hear that you think I’m unconcerned about truth. You are mistaken.

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