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CGH apologises after debt collector calls patient to recover $37

SINGAPORE — Changi General Hospital (CGH) has apologised for using a debt collector to get a patient to settle his outstanding medical bills, even though the latter had made repayment arrangements with one of its employees earlier. The flub happened because the staff member neglected to inform the hospital’s billing office the patient had agreed to pay his unpaid bill of S$37 during his next visit to the hospital.

SINGAPORE — Changi General Hospital (CGH) has apologised for using a debt collector to get a patient to settle his outstanding medical bills, even though the latter had made repayment arrangements with one of its employees earlier. 

The flub happened because the staff member neglected to inform the hospital’s billing office the patient had agreed to pay his unpaid bill of S$37 during his next visit to the hospital.

The incident came to light after a phone recording of the patient complaining to a CGH employee about being approached by the debt collector surfaced online.

In response to TODAY’s queries, the hospital said that it was aware of the recorded conversation.

During that phone call, one “Mr Seah” was heard telling the CGH employee that the debt collector was trying to claim his unpaid bills amounting to S$37.

Sounding agitated, he said that he had earlier told a hospital staff member that he would pay the outstanding medical bills at the next appointment.

When told that he was given three warning letters, Mr Seah said that he “ignored” them because he knew that he was going to pay up during his next visit to the hospital.

On how unpaid bills are recovered, CGH told TODAY that it would send reminder letters to patients if payment is not made one month from the day the bill is incurred.

Recovery agencies are then activated to help follow up on the matter if there is no response after six months.

CGH stressed that “these agencies are appointed after rigorous assessment and are required to work within strict protocols”.

CGH said that the patient’s bill has been outstanding since late 2016, and he had told a staff member at a clinic counter in the hospital that he would be making the payment at his next appointment in April this year.

“Unfortunately, our staff member did not convey this information to our back-end billing office. There was also a lapse in processing the patient’s payment using (the Central Provident Fund’s) Medisave, which we are working with the patient to rectify,” a spokesperson from CGH said.

“We apologise for these lapses in service and any inconvenience caused to the patient and his family.”

The hospital is in contact with the patient, who is making arrangements to settle the outstanding amount during his next visit.

To the patient’s allegations that the recovery agent was intimidating, CGH said that “at no time was the (recovery) agent’s tone intimidating or harsh”, after a review of the recording.

“(The agent had) followed the correct protocols and was professional in speaking with the patient,” its spokesperson said.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that the debt collector had gone to the patient’s home. They spoke on the phone. We are sorry for the error.

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