Limerick cancer patients face added stress of debt collectors

Karen Sugrue

Social Democrats spokesperson for health Róisín Shorthall called for the immediate cessation of debt collectors for collecting fees from cancer patients.

Many cancer patients are unaware of the stealth charge of €80 per visit for chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment for public patients.

“Not only are people dealing with a very difficult diagnosis and severe treatment of cancer, they then have to worry about paying off debts of up to €800 per year” Limerick City Councillor Elisa O’Donovan said.

Cllr O’Donovan said: “The practice of these debt collection agencies really has to stop. Imagine having to deal with a new diagnosis and a debt collection as well.”

The Irish Cancer society’s report highlighted carparking, wigs, childcare, heating bills, chemotherapy and radiotherapy visit fees as just some of the burden’s cancer patients struggle with.

Welcoming the motion , Irish Cancer Society Director of Advocacy, Rachel Morrogh said:

“For too long the punishing burden the State places on some cancer patients has been ignored at what can be the most vulnerable stage of their lives.”

According to Karen Sugrue a Limerick woman who received treatment for cancer at University Hospital Limerick (UHL):

”I’m fortunate as I only live 15 minutes’ drive from the hospital but many patients are travelling long distances for chemo, I can’t imagine the toll and costs incurred”

“What I find deeply distressing is the HSE have left individual hospitals to make up their own policies regarding debt collection, this is very worrying” Ms Sugrue added.

Cost of Cancer

• The Irish Cancer Society’s reports showed additional costs for cancer patients after diagnosis was €756 a month.
• €80 per visit for chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments
• Average wage income loss at €1,500
• Estimated cost childhood cancer €15,300 a year to families.
• University of Limerick Hospital group does not charge cancer patient for parking.

“Hospital Groups have advised that the standard practice for debt collection is to issue reminders of outstanding debts to patients before referral to a debt collection agency.

“The quantity and frequency of these reminders varies between hospital groups and individual hospitals but generally debt collection agencies are not contacted until the debt in question has been outstanding for at least six weeks and no communication has been received from the patient or where no payment plan has been agreed between the patient and hospital.”

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