Protest at Johns Hopkins Hospital targets lawsuits against low-income patients


Union leaders and supporters held a weekend rally urging Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Hospital to stop suing low-income patients over medical debt, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Participants also urged support for nurses' unionization efforts at the July 20 rally.

Overall, hospital officials estimated that at least 150 people protested.

Among the participants were union leaders with the National Nurses United, which a group of Johns Hopkins Hospital nurses is trying to join, according to the Sun.

The nurses began unionizing efforts last year due to what they deemed "inadequate conditions and other standards" at Johns Hopkins Hospital, "compared to other nationally recognized university hospitals."

Corey Lanham, a regional collective bargaining director for National Nurses United, told the Sun that hospital management has tried to stop unionization efforts by preventing talks between nurses about union issues and stopping them from visiting other hospital units on their days off to talk to colleagues about organizing.

According to the newspaper, about 3,200 nurses would be eligible to join National Nurses United.

Johns Hopkins Medicine administrators said Johns Hopkins "fully supports the rights of our nurses to organize," the Sun reports, citing an email sent July 20 to Johns Hopkins Medicine employees.

The administrators also said National Nurses United "has sought to undermine the hospital's standing in our community by publicizing misleading and unfair accusations about our hospital’s medical debt collection practices."

A coalition of Baltimore citizens, backed by the National Nurses United and the AFL-CIO union, published a joint report with the unions in May that found Johns Hopkins Hospital won wage garnishments or seized funds from patient bank accounts in hundreds of cases and that the cases disproportionately affected low-income patients.

Kim Hoppe, a Johns Hopkins Medicine spokesperson, told the Sun July 20 that patients receive "more than a dozen contacts via mail or phone call along with multiple opportunities to file for medical or financial hardship."

She told the newspaper the hospital offers financial counseling and assistance, and that lawsuits against patients are only filed "after all contact points have been exhausted and a patient has declined to respond or engage." She noted to Becker's that Maryland requires hospitals to pursue payment on unpaid medical bills from people who can afford to pay.

Read the full Sun report here.


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