Irish cancer patients are being asked to hand over $98 before each chemotherapy treatment they receive, which has prompted fears that hard pressed patients could stop attending for treatment because of the new 'cash on delivery' demand.
According to the Irish Independent, the new payment demands are being made at hospitals all over the country to patients who do not qualify for a medical card and who do not have health insurance.
Predictably, the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) has claimed the issue has been raised on their helplines multiple times in the past few weeks.
Kathleen O'Meara , a spokesperson for the society said: 'It is a very worrying situation. These outpatients are being asked to pay up front for chemotherapy treatment at $98 a go. This is happening in Dublin and outside Dublin in other hospitals. They are being asked to pay immediately. This appears to be an HSE directive sent out to all hospitals. It's not just one or two hospitals.'
Chemotherapy is a therapy to slow the growth of cancer cells, which develop and divide quickly.
O'Meara continued: 'Payment for chemotherapy is not new. What is new is that the demand is being made for immediate payment at the hospital. We are deeply worried that some people will decide not to continue with their treatment. We would be very concerned about this.'
The society said many cancer patients are struggling to cover the living costs associated with their illness.
Earlier this year the World Health Organisation (WHO) predicted that Ireland could experience a 72 per cent rise in the number of cancer cases by 2030.
It estimates the country will have 33,416 new cases of cancer in that year, making it the biggest predicted rise of all 27 EU member states.
Meanwhile the ICS is raising concern that the use of debt collectors by the Health Service Executive (HSE) is causing Irish cancer patients added distress.
The Irish Cancer Society Chief Executive, John McCormack, told Newstalk that patients are already dealing with the added costs of items such as transport, parking and heating - and the new $98 charge is a step too far.
'This is the straw that could break the camel's back because there are a lot of other charges, additional costs, that people who go through a cancer journey have to face. But in many cases they won't be working, particularly if they are self employed. They may well have no insurance and no sick pay scheme of any sort,' McCormack said.