CORK University Hospital (CUH) has spent more than any other hospital in Ireland on hiring debt collectors in six of the past seven years, it has been revealed.
Figures show that CUH has spent more than €600,000 on debt collector services between 2011 and June 2018 to chase down patients with unpaid hospital bills.
The figures also show that CUH’s spending on debt collectors has increased significantly since it spent just over €50,000 for the whole of 2011.
CUH spent in excess of €80,000 a year every year between 2013 and 2017 and spent more than €50,000 in the first six months of 2018 alone.
The revelations emerged as the Irish Cancer Society called on the HSE to immediately stop referring cancer patients’ debt to collection agencies.
The Society said patients are being sent letters threatening legal action and advising that their name will be published in Stubbs Gazette, along with frequent automated phone calls requesting payments.
“Coping with cancer can be the most emotionally, physically and financially challenging time of a person’s life,” said Averil Power, Chief Executive at the ICS.
Ms Power added: “The last thing they need is the added stress and fear of being hounded by debt collectors, sometimes for as little as €80.
“The HSE must stop this cruel and unnecessary practice immediately,” said Ms Power.
Cancer patients without private health insurance or a medical card can face inpatient charges of up to €800 a year for treatment such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
HSE policy states they may be pursued by a debt collection agency when charges are not paid within 47 days.
The Irish Cancer Society yesterday published advice for patients on how best to deal with the charges.
They can also get individual advice and support by calling the Society’s Freephone nurseline on 1800 200700 or visiting one of its Daffodil Centres in 13 hospitals nationwide including CUH.