Changi General Hospital (CGH) has apologised to a patient for engaging in a debt collector to reclaim S$37 of outstanding medical bills, even though the patient had earlier made repayment arrangements with a hospital staff.

The encounter took place on account of neglect by the hospital employee, who failed to inform the hospital’s billing office of the patient’s agreement to pay his outstanding bill during his next appointment.

Debt collector made phone call to patient to retrieve S$37

The incident came to light when an audio recording of the telephone conversation between the patient and a staff from CGH business operation circulated on social media. In the recording, the agitated patient can be heard complaining to the staff about being approached by the debt collector, having received a phone call from the collector who asked him to pay the pending S$37.

In the conversation, the patient admitted that he had disregarded the three warning letters that were sent by the hospital, however, explaining that it was to his understanding that the outstanding bills would be paid during his next visit to the hospital.

According to the patient, the incident was degrading and humiliating, and he was unable to go to work as he feared that the agent would harass his wife and mother while he was away. He added that he was taken aback that a government hospital would resort to debt collectors for a sum of S$37.

CGH offers apology for lapses in service

A spokesperson from CGH explained that reminder letters were sent to patient if outstanding payments were not made within a month from the date of the incurring bill, and recovery agencies follow up on the matter should there be no response on the matter after six months.

“These agencies are appointed after rigorous assessment and are required to work within strict protocols,” said CGH.

According to hospital, the patient’s bill has been outstanding since late 2016, but he had earlier informed the counter staff that he would make the payment at his next visit in April 2017.

“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,” explained a spokesperson from CGH.

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

As for the patient’s allegations regarding his encounter with the agent, CGH said that “at no time was the (recovery) agent’s tone intimidating or harsh.”

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

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