"Unnecessary charges"

About: Royal Melbourne Hospital / Emergency Department

(as the patient),

Last month I walked into the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) emergency service after having a sporting accident.

At the emergency reception I got asked to pay a large amount upfront which I believe was because I was an international. I understood and paid. They told me it would cover everything tonight apart from any radiology imaging. I asked if they needed my Australian insurance number, they said no.

I got taken to do my CT scan, and then got put back in the waiting room. The doctor was very nice, and told me it wouldn't be long until I got the results. I sat patiently until the doctor came back, and they told me it would be nicer for me to wait on a bed. I said no, I was fine with the waiting room. The doctor then insisted saying it would be more comfortable, and I asked them if there would be extra costs involved. They said no. 

So the night went on. I sat on my allocated bed instead of the waiting room. Nothing was done to me except for an eye exam done by a junior doctor and I got given pain killers. Then I got the results and got told to come back to see a specialist for a surgery the next week. 

A few days later I get woken up by a call from the hospital. The person on the other end of the phone tells me I owe the hospital over a thousand dollars immediately. I do not understand, so they explained I asked for a bed and a CT Scan. They tell me I need to give them my credit card details over the phone to pay. I refused and asked for an invoice. They got very angry and told me it is not possible. They then tell me if I do want an invoice, my case will be passed on to another section of the hospital and it will create problems with my VISA status. They then told me that if one day I want to leave Australia, I won't be let back in. I am getting threats from RMH to cancel my visa which is totally inappropriate. 

This same person then took another turn: they asked me how come I didn't have the money in my account to pay immediately. I explained due to personal circumstances, I could not afford it. This person then tells me I need to fix my life and start planning things.

A few days later I receive my Radiology bill. I pay it and claim my insurance. 

I then tried to claim my insurance, but the hospital told me it is impossible to do separate bills. I feel that this is wrong because they already issued me with the radiology bill, and my insurer already had experience with split bills from RMH. 

It's been over two weeks and I have not received my official bill for the money I have paid. I tried to call the RMH financial department but they hung up on me before I had the chance to ask. 

I am very shocked about this situation. I am also very shocked this is happening in Australia. I never went back to see them for the specialist appointment to go talk about my surgery. I have completely lost trust in them, and believe they have taken advantage of a non-medicare eligible patient. 

I have submitted an official complaint but have not heard back yet. 

Responses

Response from George Braitberg, Executive Director Strategy, Quality and Improvement, Melbourne Health

picture of George Braitberg

Dear earthpq48,

Thank you for taking the time to provide feedback on your recent experience. If staff have not considered your concerns fairly please accept my apologies. I cannot comment on any of the specifics of your care but if you contact our consumer liaison service at consumerliaison@mh.org.au I can follow up in detail.

That being said I can address some elements of your post. Medicare ineligible patients are asked to pay a fee for emergency care. This is the common practice across the public health care system. I can emphatically reassure you that payment will never impact on the care we provide. If treatment is required urgently it will be provided.

I am pleased that you were informed about these fees appropriately. It is up to the individual to claim the cost of their care from their travel or other insurance.

If you felt that our staff have been disrespectful I sincerely apologise and will investigate this further if you provide your details.

With regard to your invoice we can issue it in a way that is convenient to you, hence I am unsure why you were given contradictory advice.

I hope that I have addressed some of the issues raised in your post.

Regards,

Prof George Braitberg

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