Bill sent to deceased man was meant for someone else: Eastern Health

Barb Sweet
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A bill sent to a man who died 19 months ago was meant for another patient, an Eastern Health spokeswoman said Tuesday.
The mistake was caused by a clerical coding error, causing the newly billed items to be placed on the man’s file.

Rolanda Ryan recently received a bill for medical supplies for her husband who died 19 months ago.
— Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

The Telegram reported Tuesday 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.

Ryan could not remember her husband 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 story appeared in The Telegram.

“(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.

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 daily living activities, which may be billed through Eastern Health.

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Recent comments

  • Susan M.
    April 30, 2014 - 17:19

    It was a collection agency in my case. The bill came more than a year after she died and after receiving - and paying - what Eastern Health had told me was a final bill. Their explanation when I called was that something had been left out. Too late I told them. Her modest little estate had already been wound up. And yet the calls keep coming. I have no intention of paying of course. Maybe - for the first time ever - she will wind up with a bad credit rating.

  • Losing Interest
    April 30, 2014 - 16:08

    I am extremely disappointed in the reporting and type of stories the Telegram is publishing over the last 6 months to a year. What is happening? Is this really a news story? I am beginning to think the Telegram has it out for Eastern Health?? Certainly seems that way....this is coupled with reporting the death of a man and his sordid history. Again do most deaths get this coverage.....I used to read the Telegram faithfully....quickly losing's time to find some truthful and solid reporting

  • C O'Brien
    April 30, 2014 - 11:59

    This is not surprising. My sister had a call from Eastern Health Collections about my Mother 2 years after she passed away, looking for unpaid bills and threatening to sue her if she did not pay. I told them the Power of Attorney my sister had was not in effect upon my mother's death and was called a liar. I wished them good luck and told them to"take a hike". A manager called me back and told me not they were going to close the account. They were no better than any collections agency seeking payment for a late phone bill.

  • Dawn
    April 30, 2014 - 10:29

    I think everyone makes a mistake every now and then. I am surprised it made the news. Must be a slow news day.

  • JMAP
    April 30, 2014 - 10:27

    Probably the only reason she got a response was because she contacted the media.....strange that the bill belonged to someone else but was placed in Mr. Hickey's file, with his name and a date that coincides with his time at the hospital. Its not a convincing excuse.

    April 30, 2014 - 09:03


    • asho
      April 30, 2014 - 14:03

      ^ maybe because she's a widow! This was an extremely emotionally traumatic thing for her to go through, and to have salt poured into this wound over a careless ignorance to detail is definitely a good enough excuse in my books. A better question to ask is why have you decided to yell?

  • JRM
    April 30, 2014 - 07:38

    Mistakes happen all the time. It's unfortunate, but that's the way life is. The employee involved apologized for he typo, and that's good. The real concern here is why Eastern Health ignored this woman until the story appeared in the media. That part should concern us a lot more. Is the only way to get EH to act on an error to complain publicly?

    • Gerry.
      April 30, 2014 - 08:27

      JRM .... I agree with your comment, "the employee apologized for the typo, and that's good". The story, however, is a bit incomplete in that it does not say how often Ms. Ryan contacted Eastern Health looking to speak to someone. If she called once and didn't get a call back, why would she not have called back again? Also for how long did she wait for a return call before she contacted the media? Why this constitutes a news story is a puzzle for me, at least until such time as I get the full story.

  • guy incognito
    April 30, 2014 - 07:25


  • Susan
    April 30, 2014 - 07:06

    It is sad that the situation couldn't be rectified with a simple telephone call as Rolanda Ryan had originaly done and that the only way to get an answer is to bring the story to news media.