Private patients charged €813 per night to use trolley at University Hospital Limerick

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David Raleigh

Patients with private health insurance are being charged a daily rate of €813 for use of trolleys at University Hospital Limerick, (UHL), it has emerged.

“The charge rate applicable to Privately Insured Patients that occupied a trolley on a corridor, which is classed as a multi-occupancy room is €813,” the UL Hospitals Group stated in a letter to Clare TD Michael McNamara, on October 8th.

The letter, seen by this reporter, added that “inpatient and day case charges are applied based on Section 55 of the Health Act, 1970, as amended by the Health Amendment Act 2013”.

“The raising of the charges is not optional, in all cases where a charge is due in accordance with the legislation then hospitals have a statutory obligation to raise and pursue that charge,” the letter goes on.

A report on the front page of today’s Limerick Post stated that “in an ironic twist” Deputy McNamara had voted in favour of the amendment legislation in 2013.

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In response, a source close to Deputy McNamara said the Clare TD had not voted for charging patients on trolleys in corridors to the equivalent rate of a multi-occupancy hospital room.

Private rooms

In a follow up statement to this reporter, Deputy McNamara stated: “The legislation passed in 2013 very clearly allows for patients with health insurance to be billed for stays in Private rooms and multi-occupancy rooms. It does not provide any lawful basis to bill people accommodated in a corridor."

“It seems that the Government is intent on continuing with this unlawful practice and will only be stopped by the Courts,” the Deputy added.

Raising the issue today in the Dáil, Mr McNamara said the family of one of his constituents who had stayed in UHL and had since passed away, were charged €813 a night after the patient was “accommodated on a trolley in the corridor” at UHL.

A spokesman for the Deputy told this reporter the patient’s family was charged a total of €4,065 after their loved one had spent five nights on a trolley at UHL.

Raising the matter in the Dail today, Deputy McNamara asked the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to “please confirm to this house that a corridor is not a room”.

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Mr Varadkar replied that hospital “charges” were “a matter for the HSE”.

“Perhaps the solution for the HSE would be to not charge for the night.”

“If somebody, perhaps, is in hospital for four or five days - that would be the average length of stay in a hospital - perhaps it would be sensible for them not to charge for the first night if the patient ends up spending that night on a trolley or a chair, but that’s a decision for (the HSE) to make,” Mr Varadkar said.

University Hospital Limerick, the HSE and the Department of Health have been asked for a response.

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