By Mellica McPherson-Ganda
Community members have been taking advantage of the BVI Health Services Authority’s (BVIHSA) Debt Relief Promotion that was formulated to afford all patients with bills prior to 2015 the opportunity to obtain a discount of 10-45 percent off their total bill.
Mr. Alexander Robertson, Credit and Collection Supervisor at the BVIHSA, told The Island Sun newspaper that the collection process officially began in September, and the three-member Unit has since tackled 800 outstanding accounts.
He told The Island Sun: “We have made some headways particularly with this debt relief promotion, where we are offering 10 to 45 percent off any bill that has been incurred by BVIHSA. We have had some positive results so far, people have been calling in checking their balance.”
It was mentioned that the debt relief discount is being applied in two ways. The first is consideration of the actual value of the bill and the method of repayment. The second discount application has to do with the repayment method. Mr. Alexander said that in this area customers are given the option of fast repayment, once that is within their means. “That option actually attracts the highest discount.”
Although the discount varies from 10-45 percent, Mr. Alexander said that persons should not feel deterred because they have a large bill. In fact, he said that the Unit is willing to work with all persons to develop a workable payment plan: “Everything is up to negotiation…We are willing to have a sit down with you, look at your situation and determine the best plan that fits you, we might negotiate something that is outside of the promotion. Persons who have called in are very happy with the plan that they have, they are very happy with the incentive to have that percentage taken off their bill. We are still hoping that more people will come in”.
Previously there were concerns in the community following reports that the BVI Health Services Authority was considering the legal collection route for outstanding bills. However, Mr. Robertson explained that this was not the mandate of the collections unit: “I am actually not pursuing that legal course of repayment. We are not trying to scare anybody with legal actions, collection agencies or anything like that,” he said.
“Honestly I am just trying other options, because I don’t think legal actions or any form of brute force is the effective way to go for collection…We are trying to sit down, have a conversation and come to an amicable agreement where you can feel you left with something and I can feel I left with something.”
There are approximately 10,000 outstanding bills and Mr. Alexander explained how the bills accumulated. He said: “Some customers said that they were not aware that they had a bill and didn’t think that the service came with a charge; and there are some persons who genuinely forgot that they had a bill. Some persons are of the view that there should be no bills.”
A large majority of the bills owed to the hospital are for dialysis treatments. Other bills include treatments for patients who were transported overseas for particular care. Persons who had to have special surgical procedures which lasted for hours, and then have an extended stay on the ward, and obstetrics and gynaecology procedures.
Mr. Alexander stated that the dialysis treatment is very expensive and the Unit intends to propose fundraising as a means to supplement or fund the procedure: “Dialysis is expensive…Even persons with insurance were nowhere near even covering half of the cost, and to be honest these persons we can’t expect them to make much of a contribution to the bill because you are about in the region of $14,000 a month for one dialysis patient,” he said.
“For those bills we are going to try to do fundraisers, try to seek sponsorships for the various patients to see if we can try and cut down some of these bills,” he added.
The BVIHSA debt relief promotion is open to all persons who have outstanding bills at Peebles Hospital or any of the BVIHSA outpatient facilities.