Use of debt collectors by hospital resumes

THE use of debt collectors by Letterkenny University Hospital (LUH) to recoup outstanding patient fees suspended last year has resumed.
A HSE spokesperson confirmed to the Donegal News this week that LUH has engaged the services of a credit management company.

The use of debt collectors to retrieve unpaid patient fees had been suspended for a time during the Covid-19 pandemic, but with a caveat that the decision was to be reviewed by hospital management in late 2021.

Responding to a query from the Donegal News as to whether the HSE has, or has plans to reintroduce the use of debt collectors, a spokesperson said: “Letterkenny University Hospital has engaged the services of a credit management company. This is in line with HSE financial requirements. Debt is referred to a credit management company when the debt is outstanding for a certain period and no communication has been received, or where no payment plan has been agreed.”


The spokesperson said when patients advise that they are experiencing difficulty in settling debt in full, the hospital encourages them to avail of an instalment payment arrangement with periodic payments over an agreed period of time.

“The engagement of a credit management agency is a standard practice to ensure that patient services across the entire hospital can be sufficiently funded as the non-collection of debts affect the affordability of services in any given year.”

Betty Holmes, of Donegal Action for Cancer Care (DACC), has written to LUH manager Sean Murphy, the CEO of Saolta University Health Care Group and Minister for Health over the matter.

Betty Holmes.

The HSE has spent over €4 million on debt collection agencies since 2013, peaking in 2019 with an outlay of €687,214, according to latest figures.
The Irish Cancer Society has reiterated its calls on the HSE to end the use of debt collectors.
“The Irish Cancer Society has heard from patients about the stress and anxiety that contact from a debt collection agency chasing payment for hospital charges brings,” said Rachel Morrogh, Director of Advocacy and External Affairs at the Irish Cancer Society.
“The worries and fears that are naturally brought on by a cancer diagnosis are compounded by this practice and we want it to end.”

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