Sarah Robinson has a message for expecting parents. Read the fine print.
Robinson gave birth to her daughter at the Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville three years ago. On Jan. 25, she received a bill for the two nights she spent in hospital when her daughter was born.
Robinson says the $220 bill came as a shock as her daughter’s father signed a form requesting a private room while she was in labour, but there were no private rooms available.
“The most worrying part of the letter that you receive is… the delay in receiving and then the immediacy at which it needs to be paid and if you don’t pay the bill within 20 days, they’ll send it straight to Nova Scotia’s collection services,” the South Rawdon resident said.
She feels the bill for her hospital stay is the result of her child’s father signing the form requesting a private room. She says expecting parents should be clearly advised of the likelihood of actually being placed in a private room at the time of their visit before they are invited to sign the form.
“They said they thought the cost would be covered by her father’s… insurance because he’s the one who signed for it, so they pursued his insurance company for it I guess for this leg of time and I had not heard of the bill until January of this year.”
Now, Robinson, a self-employed single mother, says she worries her credit rating will be impacted if she refuses to pay a bill for accommodations she did not receive or personally request.
“If you owe money to that specific provincially run credit agency that can make a whole lot of things in your life really difficult.”
She says she called Annapolis Valley Health (AVH) to contest the charge and a finance employee told her a doctor’s note stating that she required a private room for medial purposes would make the bill go away, but she’s not willing to lie.
Another AVH employee told her she commonly hears from women in the same situation, Robinson said.
“She seemed extremely stressed and exasperated by the amount of calls she was getting from women like me for the exact same problem.”
Robinson says the billingprocess is a far cry from the standard of care she received at the hospital.
“The staff and the doctors at the maternity ward at Valley Regional are amazing and I love their service and this is no way a reflection on them.”
Leslie Mulcahy, a spokesperson for Annapolis Valley Health, says a private room currently costs $125 per night, and semi-privates are $110 a night.
“Patients, upon being admitted or when they pre-register, are asked if they have a preference for a private room. Private rooms will be provided to patients who have requested them, if and when they are available. Room charges would reflect the room a patient was placed in, not what the patient requested.”
However, Mulcahy says if a patient has not requested a private room, but is placed in one because there are no semi-private rooms free, that individual would only be charged the semi-private rate.
Mulcahy says bills are typically issued seven days after a patient is discharged, and reissued at 30-day intervals until the debt is resolved.
“In the event it appeared that an error in billing occurred, we would work with the individual to clarify and resolve that issue.”