The number of patients who have unpaid invoices after attending St Luke’s Hospital Emergency Department has increased by over 3,000% since 2013 from nine to 312.
The information was obtained following a Freedom of Information request by the Kilkenny People which revealed that the total amount outstanding in relation to A&E invoices stands at over €35,000.
Fianna Fáil TD, Bobby Aylward, is urging people to pay their A&E bill as the amount due is “not small money”. The hospital provided a breakdown of the number of outstanding invoices for the A&E and the total amount owing for 2013 to 2016 inclusive.
The figures reveal that there are 360 patients in total with an outstanding A&E bill across the last four years – with the charge set at €100 since January 1, 2009.
The number of people who hadn’t paid the fee went from 24 in 2015 when just over €2,000 was owed to 312 in 2016 when around €31,000 was owed.
Deputy Aylward said: “There is an understanding there. In an emergency situation you will not be asked for a €100 on arrival to the A&E, and nor should you, before the person is treated.
“But equally there is then a responsibility on the person in question to pay their bill for the treatment they received.
“At the end of the day the hospital needs this money as funding is tight at the best of times and it will always be someone else who suffers.
“It is not small money and could make a difference when it comes to providing additional bed capacity or increasing staff numbers.
"We don’t want to see additional pressure placed on existing services due to money leaving the system in such a manner.”
In a statement from the Ireland East Hospital Group – of which St Luke’s is a part of – they said the hospital had over 48,105 ED attendances during in 2016 with the hospital seeing year on year increases.
IEHG says this would account for an upward trend in the amount owing by patients for ED attendances. However, they say most patients liable for charges “settle their bills quickly”.
The reasons for unpaid invoices may vary from “incorrect billing address received, persons having difficulty with affording the payment and general delays with people making payments”.
Patients who have a GP referral letter and /or medical card holder are not liable for the charge.
A spokesperson for IEHG said: “In select cases where people have difficulty paying, the case will be reviewed based on the individual circumstances.
The hospital has a facility for payment by installments for those patients who may have difficulty with the payment and don’t have a medical card/GP referral letter.”
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