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Bayfront Hospital now suing patients for unpaid bills

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Patients who owe money to Bayfront Medical Center may get a nasty surprise. Beginning this year the hospital began suing patients for unpaid medical bills.

The downtown St. Petersburg hospital was independently owned until 2013 when it was acquired by the Naples-based Health Management Associates and joined a group of six hospitals rebranded “Bayfront” located both north and south of the St. Pete location along the I-75 corridor.

It was then acquired by a Tennessee company called Community Health Systems in a deal that was closed this past January. There are seven hospitals in that group including ones in St. Pete, Dade City, Punta Gorda, Venice, Brooksville, Port Charlotte and Spring Hill.

Even after being acquired by CHS, Bayfront did not appear to sue patients directly through 2014. Bayfront has filed against 376 patients with 125 of those cases rolling in during October.

The hospital sued no patients in January. The process began in February when eight complaints were filed. Another 13 were filed in March, eight in April and 42 in May. Another 27 were filed in June with activity picking up in July with 45 lawsuits. August followed with 41. Another 67 were filed in September.

Accurate stats for this month are not yet available.

The new trend in suing patients is significant at Bayfront considering its status as a trauma center. Although some hospitals may refuse service to uninsured patients, Bayfront must treat patients regardless of coverage.

One anonymous Pinellas County patient told SaintPetersblog they were fighting a suit based on over-charges. Due to HIPPA laws, the hospital cannot address cases.

Some low-income, uninsured patients use the hospital as a last resort to receive treatment for illnesses that could be treated far cheaper at a doctor’s office. Because doctor’s offices often require payment upfront, that isn’t an option for many who are poor and sick.

Those types of patients are also the least likely to be able to make good on a lawsuit if a judgment goes against them.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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