- The Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) in St. James has reported that it was only collecting 60 per cent of the fees required for the efficient operation of the hospital but has implemented measures to improve collection.
- According to Everton Anderson, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the CRH, hospital bills were in the region of $18 million to $20 million per month, while the hospital was only collecting an average of $12.5 million, leaving a deficit of $6 million to $8 million per month.
- The outstanding fees, when accumulated over the period of a year, amounted to a sizable bill of $72 million, Mr. Anderson said.
The Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) in St. James has reported that it was only collecting 60 per cent of the fees required for the efficient operation of the hospital but has implemented measures to improve collection.
According to Everton Anderson, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the CRH, hospital bills were in the region of $18 million to $20 million per month, while the hospital was only collecting an average of $12.5 million, leaving a deficit of $6 million to $8 million per month.
The outstanding fees, when accumulated over the period of a year, amounted to a sizable bill of $72 million, Mr. Anderson said.
He said that while collection of fees from outpatients were “pretty good” and collection from the Accident and Emergency clinics was over 90 per cent, the major problem was getting in-patients to make a contribution to their care. “For in-patients, on average, we recover about 30 per cent of those billed,” he pointed out.
The CEO was however confident that the collection of fees would improve, noting that the recovery rate had become slightly better because of the improved relations between patients and assessment officers. “The collection of fees is their (assessment officers) secondary role, even though it is very important. It is really their responsibility to ensure that the poor are protected and actually access health care,” Mr. Anderson noted.
The eight assessment officers on staff at the hospital play a very important role in determining a person’s ability to pay, by assessing their economic and social situation and then designing a payment plan based on the information received.
For in-patients, the first point of contact with the assessment officers is normally upon admission. “We try to be here at that point so we can begin to explain the entire care process and what expenses one is likely to incur during the care process,” Mr. Anderson explained.
Following the initial contact, the assessment officer, with co-operation from the caregiver, will ensure that the person is admitted and reasonably comfortable. The CEO said that during the patient’s period of stay, the assessment officer would also have more detailed interaction with relatives, to ensure that the various needs were met. “This does not only involve ensuring that fees are paid but, also to ensure that we are actually living up to our end of the bargain and doing our best to make that patient comfortable,” he noted.
At the end of the care experience, if there is an outstanding amount due, an arrangement will be worked out as to how payments will be made within a specific time frame.
The assessment officers will follow up with phone calls to ensure that individuals return to make payment, in addition to checking on the recuperation of the client since leaving hospital. “If the officer is unable to address a particular situation, it is normally referred to administration and, we somehow will deal with that situation because much of the time it involves listening and engaging the patient in meaningful discussion to see the next best option,” Mr. Anderson informed.
The collection of user fees was an ongoing process, the CEO noted, because debts “were not really written off”. “We still try to collect because many of the persons who owe still use hospital services. So as much as possible, we try to recover these amounts, without being too hard on people because we recognize that there are other economic factors, which impinge on the ability of persons to pay upfront,” he said.
The challenges related to the collection of user fees, is not only unique to the CRH. Gloria Robinson, CEO of the Bustamante Hospital for Children said: “we should collect $4.6 million but we get $3.5 million because so many of our clients are really not paying. We have outstanding bills of $20 million for one year alone,” lamented.
“We would like to appeal to parents and guardians to join with the hospital as a team to continue to share in costs of fees, so that we can thrive for excellence in all disciplines. We can only achieve this by cost sharing because children are our future so they deserve the best,” the CEO appealed, while reminding persons that assessment officers were available to work out payment plans.