$18,000 shock for pensioner

SINGLE pensioner Maureen Bamford found out the hard way not to take quotes for private medical services at face value after being billed almost $8000 more than the original estimate.

In September last year, Mrs Bamford, 68, inquired at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, Bundaberg, about the cost of elective surgery to fix a back problem she has had for 10 years.

The estimate given was $7369.60 upfront, with a possibility of a further $3500 after the surgery.

However, when the Avenell Heights resident received her bill after surgery, the additional amount charged was $11,233.96 — more than $18,000 in total and $7700 more than the original quote.

“If they are doing it to me, what are they doing to other people?” Mrs Bamford said.

“People should know they can do this.”

The first Mrs Bamford knew of the extra cost was when she received a phone call from the hospital’s accounts department.

“The lady doing the accounts up said I was going to get a shock when I got my bill and that it was over $10,000,” she said.

Mrs Bamford enquired what the additional money was for.

“‘Procedures which were done in theatre’ was what they told me when I asked,” she said.

Mrs Bamford said she was told there were three additional procedures completed in surgery that the doctor was unaware he had to complete until he saw the extent of the problem.

Mrs Bamford, who had planned to have the surgery only if it was within her budget, said she was lucky she was able to pay the additional cost.

“If my late husband hadn’t been able to put the money away I would have had to pay sums out of my pension each week and there would be not much left after that,” she said.

Mrs Bamford said she did not expect the bill to be almost double her original quote, despite a clear disclaimer in the paperwork which notes “hospital expenses are subject to variation without prior notification”.

The hospital’s executive officer, Monica Seth, said people should be aware of the financial risk that could occur during surgery.

“There are a lot of factors which have to be taken into consideration when doing surgery. Decisions which need to happen often do without any notice,” she said.

Ms Seth said people should be aware surgical equipment such as prosthetics, joins and screws can be “very expensive”.

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