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Worcester hospital cancels charge for private room that was never requested

Joe Farrell in his Baldwinville home with his wife, Cheryl. Following a hospital stay at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Joe Farrell was billed $5,000 (out of pocket) for a private room because his insurance would only pay for a semi-private room.Ken McGagh for The Boston Globe

After months of chasing a couple for $5,040 for a private room they didn’t request, Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester has canceled the charge.

“We are absolutely thrilled,” said Cheryl Farrell after getting a call from Saint Vincent CEO Carolyn Jackson on Friday.

“She apologized up and down and said she understood how much stress this put on us,” Farrell said of the call from Jackson.

The plight of Cheryl and Joe Farrell was detailed in a Fine Print column this week after the couple contacted the Globe.

Joe had been admitted to Saint Vincent last year after two days in the emergency room in excruciating pain because of a spinal cord compression.


He needed surgery but it was delayed while the hospital waited for a bed to open up. When he was finally moved upstairs the Farrells assumed it was the first available bed.

It turned out the room was a private one, which the Farrells’ insurer refused to cover, based on the kind of insurance the couple had. The hospital then billed the Farrells for it, months after his successful surgery and five-day stay.

But the Farrells had had no say in what kind of room Joe got. He was in such a debilitated state when he arrived at the hospital by ambulance that he would have accepted any room, so long as it hastened the surgery he desperately needed, the Farrells said.

“We would have been fine being put in a broom closet,” Cheryl said.

The $5,040 bill was sent to a collection agency before the Farrells ever got an explanation for the charge.

When the Globe first asked the hospital about the billing a spokesperson responded with a bland statement: “The hospital’s billing department is in contact with the patient. We also encourage the patient to follow-up with his insurance carrier.”


More than 180 readers posted comments on the online version of the Globe story, the vast majority of them critical of Saint Vincent.

Saint Vincent is owned by the Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, a for-profit company that is one of the country’s largest health systems.

Cheryl said Jackson assured her the hospital was taking steps to make sure the referral to a collection agency doesn’t damage the Farrells’ credit rating.

Saint Vincent declined comment on Friday about the canceled charge.

“I’m just so glad this is behind us,” Cheryl said.

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