A bill sent to a man who died 19 months ago was meant for another patient, an Eastern Health spokeswoman said.
The mistake was a clerical coding error.
The Telegram reported today on the bill that arrived Friday for Kenneth Hickey, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2012. He was being charged $12.69 for items used in March this year.
Hickey’s widow, Rolanda Ryan, initially thought the gloves and skin cleanser were related to an ambulance ride he required a few months before his death, in April 2012, as the bill referenced that trip to hospital. She could not remember him receiving an IV during the trip and the ambulance fee was paid for that same year. The statement Ryan received Friday shows the adjustment for the ambulance fee.
When she received the bill Friday, the shocked St. John’s woman called Eastern Health but got no reply.
However, Eastern Health called Ryan Tuesday, after The Telegram story appeared.
“(The employee) apologized,” she said. “I’m fine. I am glad he explained himself.”
Ryan did, however, ask that her husband’s patient account be closed.
But according to an Eastern Health spokeswoman, accounts are supposed to be coded when a patient dies so that billing services is aware of that.
The spokeswoman said Eastern Health apologizes for the error and said such clerical mistakes are rare and bills are usually thoroughly reviewed.
Efforts are made to bill patients within 30 days of them using a medical service.
If patients receive a bill that they believe may have been issued in error, or are unsure about the items they are being billed for, the spokeswoman said they should contact (709) 777-1480.
As for billing for medical supplies, that shouldn’t happen for items used during an ambulance ride or while a patient is in a health-care facility.
However, through the special assistance program, people can get basic medical supplies and equipment to assist them with activities of daily living, which may be billed through Eastern Health.