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Seattle-area hospitals under fire

caption: Virginia Mason Medical Center.
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Virginia Mason Medical Center.
Flickr Photo/Rob Ketcherside (CC-BY-NC-ND)

It’s been a rough week for Seattle-area hospitals. First, Virginia Mason’s accreditation is on the line. Meanwhile, a Skagit hospital lost a court fight related to abortion. And Northwest Hospital is facing a class action suit over charity care.

Here's a breakdown of what's happening at each hospital.

What happened with Virginia Mason?

Virginia Mason was deemed out of compliance on a list of safety and procedural requirements. The list includes things like making sure a patient is properly informed about follow-up care before discharge, and that the hospital has an infection and control plan.

These findings came to light when the Joint Commission, the agency that checks on hospitals, made surprise visit last month. Virginia Mason says it’s working through those items and it’s confident the issues will be properly addressed

What about Skagit Valley?

A superior court judge ruled that Skagit Valley Hospital, a public hospital, violated state law by not providing abortion services on-site.

Last year the ACLU sued the hospital for referring patients seeking abortion to Planned Parenthood. The hospital says it doesn’t have staff willing to provide those services.

The court ruled that because it provides full maternity services it has to offer abortion services as well, and not outsource to a third party. Public hospitals, the judge said, are an arm of the state and should provide those services to meet state law.

Why was Northwest Hospital sued?

Columbia Legal Services has filed a class action suit against Northwest Hospital. By law, hospitals are required to screen patients to see if they’re eligible for free or discounted care. But according to this lawsuit, Northwest Hospital didn’t screen patients and ask them enough questions to determine if they’re at poverty level. Northwest Hospital says it’s reviewing the case, but in a statement said, it has financial counselors to work with patients in need.

This is not the first lawsuit over charity care. A similar case in Eastern Washington is making its way through the courts.

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