JIS News

The Spanish Town Hospital in St. Catherine is trying to collect some $84.6 million in outstanding fees owed by patients between April to December last year.”If we could get even a half of this right now, it would make a big difference in meeting our needs and paying our bills in the hospital,” Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Pauline Reid, told JIS News.
Miss Reid pointed out that health care was very costly and if the hospital did not collect the fees “then we will not be able to provide the services that they (patients) need when they come to the hospital.” She noted that for the last financial year, the hospital had targeted to collect some $9 million per month but “we have not reached that target apart from two occasions.”
“The fees constitute a part of the budget, and if we don’t collect the fees, it means that we have a shortfall even before we start. And, when they (patients) come to the hospital, there are things that we will just not be able to provide for them, because our suppliers, who have been very kind over the years, are feeling the squeeze and they are now not able to give us the long credit they used to,” Miss Reid emphasised.
In an effort to collect the outstanding amounts, Miss Reid said a Bad Debt desk was established, and staff assigned to keep in touch with persons, who have not settled their bills within three months and over. “They are called and reminded to come in and settle the outstanding bill,” she told JIS News.
The CEO pointed out however, that this venture had not been successful as very often, when a call was made, the person receiving the call would say, it was the wrong number or no one by that name lived there. She said patients have also been written to, but the letters were often ignored.
She noted that some patients do come in and make payments but not in the numbers needed to make a substantial difference.
The CEO said that the hospital has also been trying to encourage patients to pay by implementing a Pay Later plan for those who could not pay immediately. This requires the patient to sign an agreement and pay whatever they can afford, over a period of time. “And we do have a few persons who will comply,” Miss Reid said.
She said that patients being admitted to the hospital for surgery or delivery were usually asked to make a deposit or pay a part of the fee. During their stay at the hospital, they are advised of the remainder. “This has been going fairly well, but persons have not been coming in as regularly as they did in the past,” she told JIS News.
Meanwhile, Miss Reid said, the assistance of the private sector, private individuals and other service groups has been instrumental in assisting the hospital to provide and sustain quality services.
Recently, she informed, the Scotia Bank Jamaica Foundation donated over $3 million to the hospital for the purchase of a laparoscopic unit used for the treatment of symptomatic gallstone disease.
Since the hospital was established in 1952, services offered at the institution have been expanding and the upgrading and re-equipping of some facilities have been taking place. Today, its present bed capacity is 377, with an average bed occupancy of 91 per cent.
The hospital serves approximately 500,000 persons in St. Catherine as well as patients from the surrounding parishes.

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