Hospitals will not bill victims of Orlando nightclub shooting for out-of-pocket medical expenses

Gunshot survivor Patience Carter (second from left) is comforted by Dr Neil Finkler as fellow survivor Angel Santiago (right) looks on at a news conference at Florida Hospital Orlando, June 14.
Gunshot survivor Patience Carter (second from left) is comforted by Dr Neil Finkler as fellow survivor Angel Santiago (right) looks on at a news conference at Florida Hospital Orlando, June 14.PHOTO: REUTERS

MIAMI (AFP) - Two hospitals that treated victims of this summer's attack on the Orlando gay night club Pulse will not bill survivors for out-of-pocket medical expenses - more than US$5 million (S$6.76 million) - officials announced on Thursday (Aug 25).

"The Pulse shooting was a horrendous tragedy for the victims, their families, and our entire community," Orlando Health president and chief executive David Strong said in a statement. "During this very trying time, many organisations, individuals, and charities have reached out to Orlando Health to show their support. This is simply our way of paying that kindness forward."

Orlando Health will not charge patients or their families directly, and will for other ways to shoulder costs instead, including federal funds, private insurance, disability insurance and the state's crime victim compensation programme.

Florida Hospital, which treated a dozen clubgoers, said it would not even bill victims' insurance for care costs or any potential follow-up surgery.

The health network's main hospital treated most of the 53 injured people who required immediate medical attention in the aftermath of the June 12 massacre, which left 49 dead.

Nine victims died after arriving at the hospital.

"It was incredible to see how our community came together in the wake of the senseless Pulse shooting," Florida Hospital's president and chief executive Daryl Tol said in the local Orlando Sentinel newspaper. "We hope this gesture can add to the heart and goodwill that defines Orlando."

Florida Hospital said treatment costs at its facility totaled more than US$525,000.

The authorities are still investigating the attack that ended when the police killed the gunman, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old US citizen of Afghan origin, after a three-hour standoff.