Hospitals write off €10m in bad debts for A&E
Hospitals have written off more than €10m in bad debts for their emergency departments over the course of four years.
Figures obtained by the Irish Independent under the Freedom of Information Act show that 25 hospitals across the country have lost out on large payments.
The bad debts do not include the large Dublin hospitals or University Hospital Limerick, and are dated between 2010 and 2014 - the latest figures available from the HSE.
The hospital which accrued the highest losses over the period was Cork University Hospital, writing off bad debts of just under €1.5m. In total, over the four years, its losses were €1,493,789.
In the same space of time, the hospital took in €3,878,789 in net charges raised - indicating that more than one in every four people attending the emergency room had not paid the charges.
Yesterday, the hospital had 30 patients waiting on trolleys - one of the biggest queues in the country.
Cork isn't the only hospital in the south that has accrued significantly high bad debts. Kerry General Hospital accumulated losses of €636,011 over the corresponding period.
Further up the country, Portlaoise Hospital amassed more than half a million euro in bad debts over the period.
Meanwhile, there were massive fluctuations in the numbers at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, which ranged between €5,000 and €615,000, with the hospital accumulating €822,365 between 2012 and 2014.
Patients who attend the emergency department are charged a standard fee of €100 if they are not referred to the hospital by a GP.
However, there is no charge if they have been referred by their doctor.
The HSE said the charge was not applicable to those who were medical card holders, receiving treatment for prescribed infectious diseases or those who were entitled to hospital services under EU regulations.
The net charges raised by the hospitals worked out at more than €9m each year, totalling €37,199,554.
The only Dublin hospital included in the figures released to the Irish Independent was Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown.
While the hospital took in some €1,489,363 over the four years, its bad debts written off came to €582,505.