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Summit Health to pay in nursing home program case

December 09, 2010|JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office announced Thursday that it reached a $508,000 settlement with Summit Health over fees charged in a program to train registered nurses.

The parent company of Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals charged students up to $35,000 for training they believed was being offered for free, according to news release from Attorney General Tom Corbett’s office.

Students eligible to participate in the settlement will be contacted by the attorney general’s office, the news release said.

Court documents from the settlement filed in Franklin County (Pa.) Court of Common Pleas said Summit Health developed a “Fastrack” program with Excelsior College to help licensed practical nurses obtain an associate degree so that they could take the registered nurse licensure exam. The program was designed to be completed within a year.

The first class began in the fall of 2007 and contained 19 students, court documents said. A second class started the following fall, a third in the spring of 2009 and the current one in February.

“Summit Health placed newspaper ads seeking nursing students, claiming that ‘tuition and books are free’ and allegedly making statements during orientation that students would have no obligation to Summit if they did not receive a job within one year of completing the program,” Corbett said in the news release.

Some students who enrolled believing that the education would truly be free were later shocked to receive bills for thousands of dollars in tuition, textbooks, supplies, equipment, fees for criminal background clearances and a variety of other charges,” Corbett said in the news release.

Summit Health spokeswoman Jessica Walter issued a statement in response to Thursday’s announcement:

“We agreed with the Attorney General to put the issue to rest. We never meant to mislead anyone. Looking back, we wish we would have done it differently. We’ve changed the process to make sure the terms of the program are not misinterpreted in the future.”

Court documents state some students were given a promissory note for a loan in the amount up to $35,000. Some allege they were only provided with a signature page and did not understand the provisions of the document.

Students, who said they believed employment was guaranteed upon graduation, found themselves unemployed and burdened with debt from the program, Corbett said.

Under the terms of the settlement, Summit Health has agreed to cease all efforts to collect a total of $478,333 in tuition and other related fees from eligible students. It also will pay $5,000 in civil penalties and $25,000 for investigative costs and future public protection efforts by the attorney general’s office.

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