THE HSE is owed more than €7m by people who have not settled their bill for attending hospital emergency departments.
People who attend A&E departments in public hospitals, and who have not been referred by their GP, are liable for a charge of €100.
People with medical cards are exempt from this charge, as are people who are subsequently admitted to hospital after attending A&E.
New figures show that the amount levied last year in accident and emergency charges was more than €9.4m.
However the amount that was paid up fell far short of that, at just over €8m.
Figures provided by the HSE show that overall the balance owed at the end of last year in relation to these charges was over €7m. "The outstanding balance related to unpaid charges billed to patients in current and prior years," the HSE said.
Overall, the amount levied by the HSE for accident and emergency charges last year was €9.472m, and the amount recouped was €8.030m. The balance outstanding at the year end was €7.007m.
The information was supplied by the HSE's National Director of Fiance, Liam Woods, to Fianna Fail Deputy Billy Kelleher on foot of a parliamentary question.
In select cases where people have difficulty paying, the HSE may provide the service free of charge.
However, the €100 charge for attending emergency departments without a GP referral has been in place since the beginning of 2009.
The charge does not apply in the case of babies up to six weeks of age, or children referred for treatment from child health clinics and school health examinations.
It does not apply either for people who are entitled to hospital services because of EU regulations, or women receiving maternity services.
The charge applies to the first visit for an illness or accident.
Meanwhile, the latest figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Association showed that there were 209 people on trolleys yesterday morning in hospitals around the country.