25-year-old hospital bill finally paid in full

Posted Aug. 19, 2009, at 8:37 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:11 p.m.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — A man from Bradford never discarded the typewritten bill that Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft sent him 25 years ago after he had remained overnight in the facility with a ruptured disc.

That hospitalization occurred in the old Mayo facility on March 23, 1984, long before computers were in use at the hospital.

Although the man and his wife had managed to pay $10 of the original $490 hospital bill after the service, they were unable to pay the remainder — until now. The couple, whose names are not being used at the man’s request, mailed a $500 check this week to the hospital along with an apology for the long delay.

Tom Lizotte, Mayo’s marketing and development director, said the wife told him in a telephone call this week that she had saved the bills all those years.

“We just got in a position to pay it back, and we knew we couldn’t put it off any longer,” the wife reportedly told Lizotte. “We appreciate Mayo being there for us when we needed the help, and for waiting for us,” she added.

Duane Olson, the hospital’s manager of patient financial services, said Wednesday he was flabbergasted when he opened the letter earlier this week that contained the hand-typed bill and a note.

“The first thing I saw was a bill that was hand-typed and I got to thinking what in the heck is going on,” Olson said. “I got to reading the letter they sent along with it and I was just amazed that someone would be that conscientious to want to repay the hospital where the hospital had no record of any debt of any kind.”

Olson said he immediately e-mailed Lizotte and Ralph Gabaro, chief executive officer, because he felt it was such a unique story that it should be shared. He said he also e-mailed all of his staff so they, too, could hear a “good” story.

“I’ve always had that faith in the honesty of the people that we serve, but this just blew me away, especially in the hard economic times we’re in now,” Olson said. He said the couple were complimentary about the care they had received in the hospital.

Olson said the records from a quarter-century ago were purged, so he was unable to tell whether the debt had been written off.

Only once before, when he worked at St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor, did a similar incident occur, Olson said. He said a former patient whose bill was more than 30 years old sent the hospital a considerable check to cover the earlier charges.

“Nothing surprises me. I’ve had people over the years, you know, who felt bad enough that they couldn’t pay that they offered to bring in vegetables or even work at the hospital, which is not allowed,” Olson said. “I think basically people want to pay, some just don’t have the ability and we serve them as well.”

For the couple to pay a 25-year-old bill is just amazing, Olson said. “It’s just a feel-good situation.”

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