THERE are eight centres for excellence for cancer care in Ireland, with cancer drugs being provided to patients at a further 16 hospitals nationwide.
Four of the main centres -- all in Dublin -- are voluntary hospitals which, like St Vincent's, have public and private facilities.
The rest of the hospitals are run directly by the Health Service Executive.
The Irish Independent contacted representatives of each of the hospitals to ask if health insurers have been charged for cancer drugs that were provided to the hospitals free of charge.
Representatives of St James's and Beaumont Hospitals in Dublin confirmed that neither facility ever charged insurance companies for such drugs.
Meanwhile, a statement from St Vincent's said that an independent investigation into the incident where it paid back around €1m to the VHI in 2002 -- after it charged the insurer for drugs supplied to the hospital free of charge -- had not indicated "any evidence of collusion or fraud by staff".
No response was received from the Mater Hospital at time of going to press.
The HSE responded on behalf of the centres of excellence outside Dublin -- Cork, Galway and Limerick University Hospitals and Waterford Regional Hospital, saying that health insurers have not been charged for cancer drugs provided to the hospitals free of charge.
A spokeswoman said that cancer drugs are supplied to patients in a total of 26 hospitals nationwide, including the public wings of voluntary hospitals that receive the bulk of their funding from the HSE.
She said: "In all the public hospitals, full stop, all the cancer drugs are paid for by the HSE." She said that the HSE itself paid for the cancer drugs regardless of whether a patient in a public hospital is being privately treated or not.
And she said that in the case clinical trials: "Generally what happens is the company will pay for the drug", but added that this "doesn't completely negate the money that's spent" because the patient still requires a hospital bed and may be on other drugs as well.