Eastern Health bills man who died in 2012

Barb Sweet bsweet@thetelegram.com
Published on April 29, 2014
This Eastern Health bill for Ken Hickey arrived Friday. He died in 2012.
— Submitted photo

Kenneth Hickey died in September 2012, but Eastern Health sent him a bill last week for medical supplies.

For his wife Rolanda Ryan, the bill for $12.69 was galling and very painful.

“I was standing there in shock,” the St. John’s woman said of the bill, which was addressed to Hickey and arrived in the mail Friday. “It’s tacky and heartless.

“Still, to this day when I get mail for Ken, it just hurts. Not that I need a reminder Ken is gone. I don’t. But it’s another reminder of my loss.”

Ryan initially thought the bill — for a pair of powdered gloves at $5.48 and 350 millilitres of skin cleanser at $5.75 — were related to an ambulance ride Hickey took in April 2012. That trip — long ago paid for — is referenced on the bill, which shows an adjustment of $115 for the ambulance.

 She doesn’t remember if he had an IV or not, but she has never heard of Eastern Health billing for routine medical supplies. The bill Hickey received in 2012 didn’t have the supplies on it, Ryan said.

At first it appeared the health authority is now going back in time to find money. But a closer look at the bill shows the service date for the gloves and cleanser is March 17, 2014.

And if they were supplies used in 2012, Ryan said, it’s unethical to go back looking for ways to charge patients, especially since it takes employee effort to search for those backdated pennies.

“For the sake of $12.69, that is ridiculous,” she said.

For a while after Hickey’s death, and after her mother’s death, Ryan received mail for them about medical appointments, which she cancelled. But it’s been 19 months since Hickey died and Eastern Health should have the technology to know it was billing a deceased person, she said.

“They should. They did the autopsy on him,” Ryan said of her beloved husband, an electrical engineer who died at age 54 of the pancreatic cancer he fought for nine years.

The ambulance ride was covered under Hickey’s private insurance in 2012. That insurance was cancelled after his death.

Ryan also noted the extreme markup on the gloves — $10 will buy a box of 100 — and Hickey was charged almost $5.50 for a single pair.

She called Eastern Health Friday after receiving the bill, but got no response, she said.

And she said she’s not paying the new $12.69 charge all this time after his death.

“I’ve never been in collections, but I am prepared to do the fight over this $12.69 to force the issue,” Ryan said.

“Whoever made this decision to go backwards in time and do this needs to answer for this.”

An Eastern Health spokeswoman was looking into the matter Monday.