Government must make Agreement with private hospitals work for patients

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  • Acknowledgment by Fianna Fáil that private hospital ‘contract not working’ and must be reviewedwelcome;
  • Contract costing more than €115 million per month, but only a third of private hospital capacity being used, as a growing number of non-COVID patients await urgent care.

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA), the representative body for over 90% of all hospital consultants, has called on the Government to urgently review how its agreement with private hospitals is working to ensure that it is delivering for patients.

The call comes after the Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin TD, today (Thursday) called for the agreement between private hospitals and the HSE to be ‘reviewed’. Separately, the party’s health spokesperson Deputy Stephen Donnelly acknowledged the ‘contract was not working’.

The IHCA has stated that the current contract with private hospitals represents poor value for money for patients and taxpayers. Despite, costing more than €115 million per month, hospital utilisation continues to be low at around 34%. 

At the same time, an increasing number of urgent non-Covid patients are being prevented from obtaining the urgent hospital care they need and are at an increased risk from cancer, cardiac and other critical conditions.

The IHCA has urged the Government, Department of Health and HSE to put in place a better arrangement to ensure all patients enjoy the greatest benefit from the State’s effective takeover of private hospitals during this pandemic.

According to consultants, the existing contract with private hospitals can be ended by the HSE giving 30-days-notice before end of May. It could then be replaced with another arrangement to provide the State with access to some of the private hospital capacity if needed instead of blocking care for urgent non-Covid patients as has been occurring since March.

Such a new arrangement would allow private hospitals and independent consultants to use their significant spare capacity to treat urgent non-Covid patients who have had their care disrupted over the past two months. Failure to do this, is and will increasingly add to waiting lists, adverse outcomes, emergency admissions and deaths.

IHCA President, Dr. Donal O’Hanlon commented:

“The current arrangement is not working for patients and is only adding to their wait times and building pent up pressures in an already overstretched health service.

“The fact that patient access to hospital care is deteriorating at a time when the State is now paying €115 million per month for private hospitals defies logic.

“The failure of the Minister for Health and health service management to offer wholetime private practice consultants less costly Type B or C contracts is preventing consultants from operating their outpatient clinic rooms and providing continuity of care to their patients.  This could be rectified in a new arrangement that will ensure the better use of valuable hospital capacity and consultant outpatient clinic facilities.

“Consultants have been attempting to secure agreement from the Department of Health and HSE on these issues for over two months now. Progress to date has been disappointing. Those who are disadvantaged most are patients across the country waiting for care.

“We owe it to patients and the public to deliver for them and to ensure best value for money. Consultants are again calling on the Department of Health and HSE to quickly resolve this issue”.

END