Hospital using debt agency to collect A&E fees

Patients attending Cork University Hospital’s emergency department are being issued “first and final” letters from a debt collection agency on behalf of the hospital.

The hospital is taking a tough stance on collecting the new €100 charge for attending the emergency department. And people are being warned if a payment is not received within 14 days, their account will be referred for debt collection.

The charge was implemented by Government in respect of attendances at all hospital EDs throughout Ireland.

The standard letter sent out states: “We refer to the invoice you received in relation to the above matter from Cork University Hospital. This amount should be paid immediately to Debitask Collection Services Ltd. If there is any reason why this account cannot be paid please contact the undersigned. If payment is not received within 14 days your account will be referred for debt collection.”

One man who received the letter told the Irish Examiner that he had already paid the bill and was upset to see the language used in the letter.

“I thought it was quite rude, especially since I had already paid the bill,” he said.

The HSE said in a statement it was the policy of Cork University Hospital (CUH) to request eligible patients to pay the charge when they present at the ED — payment can be made by cash, cheque or credit card.

“However, if it is not possible to pay the charge on arrival at the ED, an invoice is raised which patients are requested to pay within 21 days,” the HSE said. “In the event the bill remains unpaid after this time, a first and final letter is sent from the debt collection agency, Debitask on behalf of CUH.”

The HSE said the requirement to collect statutory charges applied to all HSE hospitals and it was understood the collection process was relatively similar throughout the country.

In respect of ED bills paid, approximately 30% of patients pay the bill on attendance at the ED; the remaining 70% pay on receipt of the invoice or reminder, a spokesperson said.


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