Public hospitals have spent €3m on debt collectors since 2011

New figures show HSE hospitals were owed €40.1m in unpaid charges at the end of 2016

File image of a hospital ward. File photograph: Alan Betson

File image of a hospital ward. File photograph: Alan Betson

 

Public hospitals have spent almost €3 million hiring private debt collectors to pursue patients for unpaid charges since 2011, new figures show.

The HSE-run hospitals were owed a total of €40.1 million at the end of last year in respect of unpaid Emergency Department (ED) fees, statutory inpatient charges, and costs relating to Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs).

This does not include approximately €145 million owed by health insurance companies for the treatment of private patients in public facilities.

The amount paid to debt collectors by public hospitals to chase unpaid charges has increased in each of the past six years, rising by 66 per cent during that period to €587,081 last year.

The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show Cork University Hospital has spent the highest amount on debt-collection services, paying a total of €469,247 in pursuit of unpaid ED, RTA and statutory inpatient charges since 2011.

The hospital was owed a total of €3.6 million in respect of these charges at the end of last year – the third highest amount behind Galway University Hospitals (€5.8 million) and University Hospital Waterford (€4 million).

Galway University Hospitals spent €307,536 on debt-collection services during the same six-year period, while University Hospital Waterford had the next highest spend of €233,235.

Recouped

A breakdown of how much the debt collectors recouped in that period was unavailable.

The €40.1 million outstanding in unpaid charges includes €6.1 million relating to the €100 standard fee for attendance at an emergency department. Almost €10.3 million remained payable at the end of 2016 to hospitals in respect of statutory inpatient charges, while the remaining €23.8 million related to charges applied for services in the case of RTAs.

“The HSE continues to work on improving the speed and efficiency of the collection of patient income,” said a HSE spokesperson.

“The HSE seeks to maximise the recovery of income in a socially responsible, ethical, efficient and cost-effective way.

“In all cases where a charge is due, in accordance with the legislation, hospitals have a statutory obligation to raise and pursue that charge.

“It should be noted that the collection of monies owed is a continuous, daily and large-scale process. The major part of the amounts invoiced by HSE hospitals, and unpaid at any given moment, relate to private insurers.”