The HSE paid debt collectors more than €360,000 to pursue patients for unpaid bills last year.
Currently, there is a €100 charge for attending an emergency department without a referral and an €80 fee for an overnight stay in hospital.
If patients fail to pay up, the HSE calls in debt collection agencies to chase them down.
Freedom of Information figures released to Today FM shows the health service spent €363,000 on debt collectors in the first ten months of last year.
They show that the HSE paid the agencies a total of €931,000 in the 22 months between January 2020 and October last year.
Irish Patients Association Director Stephen McMahon told Newstalk it's a waste of taxpayer’s money.
“The €363,000 is a lot of money to pay to debt collectors to collect money off patients who were charged these amounts,” he said.
“You know, a lot of hips could have been done for the €363,000.
“We welcome the fact the minister is abolishing those charges for patients who are under 16 and indeed plans to do the same for everybody over that age in 2023.”
Cork University paid out by far the highest amount last year – paying the agencies €86,000.
The Midlands Regional Hospital in Tullamore was the next highest, at nearly €59,000.
Beaumont Hospital consultant Bill Tormey is defending the spend on debt-collectors.
“The HSE I think is obliged to do this as long as the Government policy is to collect charges,” he said.
“I think you can’t have charges without pursuing people who don’t pay because it is unfair on all those who do pay.”
He said all public hospital charges should be scrapped.
“One of the things that does really irritate families is that when some of their relatives are in hospital the hospital car parking charges are huge and they have found that an incredible imposition on people.
“They are waived when people are going in for cancer treatments but this whole area needs to be sorted out and I think spending €300,000 on debt collection agencies could be spent a hell of a lot better somewhere else basically.”
The HSE said hospitals have an obligation to collect these charges, but they can operate payment plans.