Irish Water bills costing some €820,000 to send to households

What else could we be spending the money on?

Irish Water bills costing some €820,000 to send to households

A generic view of a household water tap | Image: Rui Vieira / PA Archive/Press Association Images

It is costing some €820,000 to send Irish Water bills to members of the public.

The figures show that the latest billing cycle - covering January, February and March - is costing 61 cents per paper bill.

This is 51c in postage and 10c in printing costs.

In a statement to Newstalk.com, the utility says: "Irish Water is just under half way through the current billing cycle, 18 days of total 41. We have sent 750,000 bills so far".

"With no change in legislation we are legally obliged to continue billing and customers are legally obliged to pay", it adds.

It comes after a political deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, which will see the charges suspended for at least nine months.

An independent commission is to be set up to report on the best way to fund water services.

While the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has urged people to pay their current bills.

Environment editor with the Irish Independent, Paul Melia, outlined to the Pat Kenny Show here on Newstalk what happens now.

Money down the drain?

But could some of that money go to other areas of the economy?

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) says an average of €3,044 per person was spent on health care in Ireland in 2011. This was a decrease from €3,269 in 2009.

More generally, the OECD says the number of doctors per population in Ireland in 2013 was lower than the OECD average - 2.7 doctors per 1,000 population, compared with 3.3 doctors for the OECD average.

It says about one-third of doctors working in Ireland are foreign-trained, and that new medical graduates "intend to go work overseas".

While it says the number of nurses per population here was not greater in 2013 than what it was in 2000.

But it adds that this is higher than in most other OECD countries - except in Nordic countries and in Switzerland and Germany.

However Irish hospitals are also working near full capacity. The occupancy rate for acute care beds here is among the highest in OECD countries.

"In recent years, the occupancy rate for acute care beds has risen substantially in Ireland", the OECD said in February.

"While having a high utilisation rate of hospital beds can be a sign of hospital efficiency it can also mean that too many patients are treated at the secondary care level. Very high occupancy rates can also have a negative impact on access to care and increase waiting times".