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HSE hospitals spent a total of €574,207 on debt collection agencies last year, according to figures supplied to the Medical Independent (MI) following a Freedom of Information request.
The figure is for HSE statutory acute hospitals and does not include voluntary hospitals, the Executive told MI.
Cork University Hospital spent the most in 2018 on debt collection, with €99,488 paid to Debitask Collection Services. University Hospital Galway was second on the list, spending €63,584 on debt collection services last year. The figure comprises €54,373 paid to Garwyn Group and €9,211 to Intrum Justitia Ireland Ltd.
Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, paid €37,871 to LCMS Ltd and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda paid €33,981 to Intrum Justitia Ireland Ltd and €51 to LCMS Ltd, a total of €34,032.
The 2018 figure for HSE hospitals represented a decrease on the spend on debt collection agencies by HSE hospitals in 2017.
Last June, MI reported that HSE hospitals spent €603,137 on debt collection agencies in 2017.
In regards to the 2018 figures, the HSE cautioned that the “2018 figures are draft only and are subject to change within the year end audit process”.
The employment of debt collection agencies by hospitals to retrieve unpaid fees has proved controversial in recent years, with criticism from some patients and politicians about the practice.
Last year the HSE told MI that it “continues to work on improving the speed and efficiency of the collection of patient income”.
“The HSE seeks to maximise the recovery of income in a socially responsible, ethical, efficient and cost-effective way,” according to the HSE spokesperson.