'Strong-arm tactics being used to make patients sign waiver forms'
Staff in public hospitals have been accused of using "strong-arm" tactics to get patients to sign forms that mean there will be a double charge for their treatment.
Patients have reported being told they will not get further treatment if they do not sign the waiver forms, even though they are not in private facilities. The Department of Health has asked the HSE to investigate the claims.
Large numbers of people are unaware they do not need to sign forms.
The waiver form allows public hospitals to charge insurers for public treatment in State hospitals.
Insurers are charged €813 a day when a patient receives private care in a public hospital compared with €80 a day for public treatment.
The accusations come as it emerged 44pc of people are unaware they do not need to sign forms allowing public hospitals to charge their insurers for public treatment in State hospitals.
Some patients have reported being told they will not get further treatment if they do not sign, even though they are not in private facilities.
Others said they were presented with pre-populated forms while they were on hospital beds. One patient was approached by a hospital official while lying down, with no family member present. The patient felt vulnerable.
The department said it is anxious that the application of "these necessary procedures is sensitive to the health status of patients whilst in hospital and wants to ensure that patients do not experience upset at such a difficult time".
"The HSE has put in place detailed operational procedures, including the completion of private insurance patient forms introduced at the request of the private health insurers, to ensure private patient charges are levied in accordance with the current policy and legislative framework," it said.
Asked about claims of strong-arm tactics being used to get people to sign the waiver forms, the department said it has forwarded the issues raised to the HSE for examination.