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The Social Democrats have put down a motion, to be debated in the Dáil tomorrow, on the real cost of cancer

It is unconscionable that cancer patients are being pursued by debt collection agencies for bills related to their chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment, according to Social Democrats Health Spokesperson Róisín Shortall.

“If you do not have a medical card or private health insurance, every chemotherapy or radiotherapy appointment costs €80, to a maximum of €800 per annum. Invoices are often sent out to patients within days of their first treatment being administered – and, if they are not paid within six weeks, debt collection agencies are hired to pursue the debt.

“It is unconscionable that cancer patients are being harassed by debt collection agencies, demanding payment for life-saving treatment. It is frankly disgusting that patients, while they are at their most vulnerable in the middle of their treatment, are put under this kind of unnecessary strain. A cancer diagnosis causes enough trauma and distress, without hospitals heaping further financial pressure onto patients through their callous use of these agencies.

“Cancer patients should be focused on just one thing – getting better. Regrettably, this is not helped by the huge financial stress caused by a diagnosis. A 2019 report from the Irish Cancer Society, conservatively estimated this additional cost was €756 per month. In some cases, it is more than €1,000 per month. Given the increase in the cost of living since 2019, it is likely these figures are now higher. This additional cost comes at a time when many suffer a loss in income, which averages €1,500 per month.

“As well as inpatient fees, costs include car parking, medication, counselling, wigs and additional childcare and heating costs. Hospital parking charges are an expense that the government could act on now, but is has failed to do so. This is despite the fact that the programme for government contains a commitment to introduce a cap on daily hospital parking charges and flexible passes in all public hospitals for patients and their families.

“The Social Democrats are tired for waiting for the government to act on this issue. This is why we have put down a motion in the Dáil, to be debated on Wednesday, calling for the €80 inpatient charge to be abolished for cancer patients; for debt collection agencies to no longer be used by public hospitals and for the commitment in the programme for government, to introduce caps on parking charges, to be immediately introduced.

“This issue is of particular relevance now given the huge concern that exists among clinicians about the issue of delayed cancer diagnoses, caused by, among other things, the suspension of screening services during the pandemic.

“The purpose of the health service is to assist cancer patients in whatever way it can. It should not be adding to their trauma, through its use of aggressive debt collection tactics. The government has the power to immediately act to reduce a portion of the huge financial burden that cancer patients face. There can be no further excuses for inaction.”

February 1, 2022


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