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'Beyond belief': HSE chief says Beacon Hospital should reconsider stance against signing surge capacity deal

The Beacon has chosen not to join a surge capacity agreement between private hospitals and the HSE.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie

THE HEAD OF the HSE is urging the Beacon Hospital to reconsider its decision to decline to sign up to an agreement between the HSE and private hospitals.

17 of Ireland’s 18 private hospitals have signed up to a “safety net” deal that allows the HSE to use private beds while coping with capacity pressure during Covid-19 surges.

The Beacon Hospital, which has been designated as a vaccination centre for healthcare workers, has not signed up to the agreement.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said this afternoon that the hospital should rethink its decision and join the deal to provide additional beds. 

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Saturday with Katie Hannon, Reid said he had to “genuinely express my extreme frustration that the Beacon hasn’t signed up to that agreement”.

“We have our public health system facing the biggest crisis probably in history for the state and for our health services,” Reid said.

“We have a fantastic team of people all across our hospitals, including private, working relentlessly, but we are racing to save people’s lives here and it is beyond frustrating for me. It’s beyond belief and comprehension,” he said.

I would be urging their Board to sign up to the safety net agreement.”

The Beacon is being used as a vaccination centre for healthcare workers, where a thousand staff were vaccinated last week, according to Reid.

“It was provided purely at no cost to the HSE by the Beacon and we’re grateful for it,” he said. 

In a statement, the Beacon Hospital said that it “has declined to sign an additional centralised agreement because it is not willing to give Clinical Governance to the HSE”. 

The hospital said that “the last HSE Agreement, which Beacon Hospital signed up to,  in April to June last year, allowing the HSE take clinical control, led to the hospital being 70% empty for three months”.

“As Beacon Hospital is at full capacity now, treating both private and public patients, we cannot take the risk of allowing HSE direct clinical governance lead to under-utilisation,” it said.

The hospital said that it is “currently treating more public patients than the HSE agreement envisages or asks for” and that public patients comprised 55% of its ICU.

“Beacon Hospital remains committed to doing all that it can to support the public system and the country during this time of crisis and is preparing to take more public patients during the days and weeks ahead,” it said.

The deal between the HSE and other private hospitals will allow the health service to use, depending on the incidence of Covid-19, up to 30% of the private hospitals’ capacity.

The agreement, which is in place for 12 months, would come into effect during surges in the virus.

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Yesterday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that designating the hospital as a vaccination centre was “at odds” with its stance against the capacity deal and that if there was a review clause in the Beacon-HSE contract, it should perhaps be looked at.

The whole health system is “completely tightening up” during the current surge in virus cases, Reid said today.

“We have formally gone into surge capacity,” he said.

“We’ve now stood up our national critical care surge group which gives oversight across the whole hospital system, mobilising the likes of our mobile intensive care ambulance service where we need to transfer patients between hospitals for intensive care.”

The number of critical care beds has been increased from around 280 to 313, with 28 beds currently available for adults and 12 for children.

No patients have yet been moved from ICU in one hospital to another yet, Reid said.

“The focus is understandably on ICU, but there still are about about 250 people not in ICU but receiving intensive supports, particularly in terms of oxygen, sometimes high flow oxygen supports.”

As of this morning, 1,848 patients with a confirmed case of Covid-19 are hospitalised, with 191 in ICU.

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