Hospital Suspects Passport Fraud (New Zealand)

Hospital suspects passport fraud (New Zealand)

By NATALIE AKOORIE – Waikato Times
Thursday, 26 July 2007

Police and immigration authorities have been notified after a Waikato Hospital crackdown on ineligible patients turned up a potential case of passport fraud.

The case involves a Hamilton woman who gave birth at the hospital, but whom the Waikato District Health Board believes could have been using a fake passport to get free care.

DHB spokeswoman Mary Anne Gill said the woman, not originally from New Zealand, owed the hospital $5000 for her care after it checked her details with Immigration New Zealand, which “flagged that there was an issue there”.

To be entitled to publicly funded health services, patients must be lawfully in New Zealand when seeking care and meet other Health Ministry criteria.

Those not born in New Zealand and without a New Zealand passport could also be questioned though many in this situation are still eligible.

Mrs Gill said Hamilton police would investigate and she said Immigration New Zealand was considering making changes to its arrival card questions.

“We are working really closely with Immigration, so much so that they're actually looking at making changes to the arrival and departure forms on planes. They're possibly looking at another question on the form that would not only assist Waikato DHB but all other DHBs.”

Earlier this month Waikato DHB announced it was sending letters to 4000 elective surgery patients because details of their country of birth had been lost during a major computer system upgrade in April. The 4000 recipients were being asked to confirm their eligibility for free health care.

The DHB is cracking down on ineligible patients who have cost the hospital close to $1 million in unpaid care during the past 13 months.

“We have picked up some issues mostly around work permits and we are working closely with the authorities around those,” Mrs Gill said.

“Our message continues to be that for every dollar spent on an ineligible patient, that's one less dollar going on eligible patients. This is taxpayer money.”

So far about 2000 responses had come back to the hospital and 1000 phone calls were made inquiring about the letters – 800 in the first week.

But Mrs Gill said the DHB was not expecting to hear from those patients trying to cheat the system. The deadline is August 27.

“We're aware non-eligible people probably won't respond. We are looking at 10-15 referrals a day very closely.”

She said the strategy now was to look at those patients who had not notified the DHB, particularly if they were still receiving treatment.