HEALTH MINISTER James Reilly has revealed that 34 consultants on the payroll of the public health services have been reprimanded for building up workloads where they treated more patients in their private practices than public patients.
The consultants’ employers engaged with the consultants after it emerged that they were in breach of official rules on public-private treatment ratios, which oblige most consultants to limit their private consultancies to 30 per cent of their total workload.
In 32 cases, the matters were resolved to the satisfaction of the Health Service Executive – but in two cases consultants who did not reduce their private ratio to an acceptable deemed acceptable by the HSE had their private practice rights suspended.
“In line with the terms of the contract, one of these consultants has remitted the excess private fee income into a research and study fund in the hospital concerned,” Reilly said.
The HSE’s investigations follow rules introduced in 2008 which meant that newly-appointed consultants were told they could only spend 20 per cent of their time treating patients on a private basis.
Consultants who were on contract before 2008 were allowed to maintain their previous ratio of 30 per cent.
In a written response to Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher, Reilly said the HSE was now proceeding to take action against consultants in breach of the 30 per cent ratio.
The minister said the HSE’s engagement with consultants and medical unions had resulted in a “significant improvement in the level of compliance with the public practice rules”.
Records published late last year showed that over 700 public patients had been referred to the National Treatment Purchase Fund by consultants acting in a public capacity – only for the patient to then be referred to the same consultant on a private basis.
This was despite NRPF rules stipulating that patients whose private healthcare bills were being covered by the fund should not be treated by the same consultant doctor who had seen them through the public system.