‘We would have taken out a bank loan to pay the bill... A man’s life was at stake’

Blackrock Clinic was the only hospital that had a bed for desperately ill man

William Healy from Kerry: had Blackrock Clinic chosen to pursue him for the cost, he would have been liable to pay €7,200.

William Healy from Kerry: had Blackrock Clinic chosen to pursue him for the cost, he would have been liable to pay €7,200.

 

In February, William Healy from Valentia, Co Kerry started to feel unwell. He has been fighting a type of bone marrow cancer since 2008. The fight has taken its toll, as has the medication which keeps the illness at bay but makes him prone to infections.

William was admitted to the Bon Secours private hospital in Tralee on February 1st. His sister-in-law Eileen Healy says neither he or his family were unduly concerned at that point as his illness has involved multiple hospital admissions “for tune-ups”.

“When he doesn’t feel well he goes into the Bons, spends four or five days there and is right as rain,” she said.

This time was different as William developed severe complications soon after admission, and his organs began to shut down. Doctors diagnosed septic shock and his family were told he needed an ICU bed with dialysis capabilities within 24 hours or he would die.

The hospital called major trauma centres in the region but there were no beds available. After 14 further calls, the answer remained the same. Time was running out.

The Blackrock Clinic had a bed free but his family were told William’s health insurance would not cover his admission in full and he would face a shortfall.

“They told us that if they didn’t find him a bed within 24 hours he was dead,” she says. “We have to make a decision on the spot. They said it was going to cost us an extra €255 per night.”

There was no hesitation. “We told the hospital the costs didn’t matter, that we would get the money from somewhere. We would have taken out a bank loan to pay the bill...There was a man’s life at stake,” his sister-in-law says.

He was in hospital in Dublin until February 26th where he underwent multiple tests. Then at the end of last month, he was transferred him to Cork University Hospital, where he remains. The Blackrock Clinic did say afterwards that as he did not choose to go there, they would not be passing the bill on to William. Had the hospital pursued him for it, he would have been liable to pay €7,200.