€80m tangled up in hospitals' red tape
SEVERAL major hospitals -- some of which are closing beds to save money -- were owed more than €80m in unpaid private patient charges at the end of last year, the spending watchdog has revealed.
In Dublin, the Mater Hospital was owed €12m, Tallaght Hospital €13.8m and Beaumont Hospital €11.4m.
The money is due for patients with health insurance who are treated privately in the public hospitals. The delays in collecting it has been a long-running difficulty for the health service.
One of the major reasons for the problem is that doctors are failing to fill out the forms needed by the hospital to bill the insurance company.
The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General showed that although a new drive began last year to recoup the money faster, the period of credit has not decreased to any significant degree.
Industrial action by staff earlier this year stalled efforts to get money due from private health insurers quicker, and hospital consultants are still not doing the necessary paperwork to secure the payments early enough.
The Health Service Executive said several initiatives were under way to secure private insurance income faster, including setting specific targets for hospitals, more frequent submission of forms to insurance companies and the setting up of a centralised billing system.
The Comptroller also highlighted the fact that many consultants were treating too many private patients in public hospitals, in breach of new contracts.