Quietly, and with only a scant paperwork trail, local hospitals have been granted liens on thousands of houses in Stark County -- in an effort to collect on unpaid medical bills. In the past eight years alone, Aultman Hospital, Mercy Medical Center, Alliance Community Hospital and Affinity Medical Center (and its predecessors) have acquired 2,603 liens on the homes and properties of former patients. The liens don't give hospitals authority to foreclose. However, they do enable a hospital to collect from proceeds if the house is sold in the future. Those liens represent a combined $8.6 million in unpaid medical bills. The total includes payment due from patients without insurance and from insured patients who didn't pay the portion of the bill that was their responsibility.