HSE to repay €12m in interest to former patients

Report on patients’ private property accounts to be laid before Oireachtas

The money is unpaid interest  held by the HSE for safekeeping on behalf of patients in its care. Photograph: iStock

The money is unpaid interest held by the HSE for safekeeping on behalf of patients in its care. Photograph: iStock

 

Nearly 20,000 former health service patients, or their estates if they are deceased, are to receive nearly €12 million between them in the coming months as part of a HSE repayment scheme.

The money involved represents unpaid interest generated on funds held by the HSE for safekeeping on behalf of patients in its care – mainly in long-stay residential or mental health facilities – since the year 2000.

A report on the patients’ private property accounts, to be laid before the Oireachtas in the coming days, says a process to identify the relevant patients or their estates began last September and would be completed by June.

The 19,706 individuals concerned had been in HSE care since 2000 and have since either been discharged or died.

A further €2.6 million in unpaid interest has been identified already as belonging to more than 2,500 patients who remain in HSE care and whose private property accounts are still active. The outstanding interest due was paid out in these cases last autumn.

The new report, to be presented to the Oireachtas by the HSE, shows that at the end of 2017 there was about €116 million in nearly 6,000 individual patients’ private property accounts operated by the heath authority. The vast bulk of such funds are held by a central co-ordinating unit and are invested with the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA).

Funds contained in the private property accounts include pensions or Department of Social Protection payments made to patients in HSE care.

Legal advice

Historically, however, health authorities going back to the former health boards did not allocate interest generated from such accounts to the patients. Instead, the health boards, based on legal advice they had received at the time, retained the interest and used it to defray the cost of operating the private property accounts.

After the HSE was established to replace the former regional health boards, it obtained legal advice which said it was obliged to remit interest earned to the patients concerned.

The report says over the past three years it had carried out a detailed exercise overseen by a small steering group to calculate and effect payment to the 22,293 entitled clients or estates.

It says that by August 2018, a total of 2,587 active central patients’ private property accounts (1,007 of which are deceased but estates not yet settled) had been credited with interest of €2.6 million and that the beneficiaries had been notified of the immediate availability of these funds.

“In relation to the remaining 19,706 cases, the patient is either deceased or is no longer in the care of the HSE. This involves interest held of €11.9 million. The task to source the relevant entitled persons/estates commenced in September 2018.

“Payments will be processed for all applications received until all entitled clients/ estates have been contacted or all reasonable efforts exhausted to locate them. This exercise will take approximately nine months to complete.”