Channel 2 Action News has learned Grady Memorial Hospital is suing several Metro Atlanta governments for tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills.
According to a spokeswoman for Grady Health System, the bills are for inmates who received medical care at the hospital while in custody.
"Grady has prisoner care agreements with Fulton and DeKalb Counties and the City of Atlanta," said Grady spokeswoman Denise Simpson in a statement. "Other municipalities and county governments, with whom we do not have agreements, are expected to pay for services we provide to prisoners in their custody. When our attempts to receive payment through traditional billing fail, we are often left with no other option but to sue in order to get the money owed to the health system."
Channel 2's Mike Petchenik learned of the lawsuits after the Alpharetta City Council agreed to pay Grady $15,000 for unpaid medical bills. The city attorney did not return a call seeking comment on why Alpharetta failed to pay its bill.
According to Grady's chief counsel, Tim Jefferson, the lawsuits are fairly routine and not indicative of a larger problem.
"It's not that frequent," he told Petchenik. "But when we do have it, we expect them to pay for (services)."
Jefferson told Petchenik that Grady Health System is currently in litigation with several local governments for the following amounts:
• The City of East point recently settled a $3,500 bill • The City of Alpharetta owed $30,000, but settled for $15,000 • The City of Senoia settled a $5,500 bill • Newton County has an outstanding bill of $87,000 • Douglas County has an outstanding bill of $100,000
In Alpharetta's case, Jefferson said the city incorrectly believed it was covered under the terms of Fulton County's agreement, but Jefferson said since the inmates were in the city's custody, not the county's, the burden was on Alpharetta to pay for the bills. A call to Newton County government seeking comment was not immediately returned.
An attorney for Douglas County emailed Petchenik to say the inmate who received services at their facility was a state inmate who was being temporarily housed in Douglas County when he was injured.
"As you might expect, it is the responsibility of the state to provide medical treatment for prisoners who are in the legal custody of the Department of Corrections, as this inmate was," wrote attorney Theodore Freeman. "Indeed, Grady also sued the DOC in this case. To be sure, there is no law requiring that counties pay for the medical expenses of state prisoners under these circumstances."
Some Alpharetta taxpayers told Petchenik they support Grady going after the money.
"I own a business and if somebody doesn't pay me I'm gonna go after them," said Mark Ray. "If the hospital had to fork out all the effort and all the medical bills and staff and overhead, they should get reimbursed."