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Consultant says private hospital contract is ‘a bad deal’ for taxpayers

Last month the government reached an agreement with private hospitals to use all of their facilities during the Covid-19 crisis.

A CONSULTANT WORKING in the private sector has claimed that the government’s proposed public contract for private doctors is “a bad deal” for taxpayers.

Dr Crochan O’Sullivan, consultant cardiologist at the Bons Secour private hospital in Cork city, said the deal agreed a number of weeks ago is not good value for money.

Last month the government reached an agreement with private hospitals to use all of their facilities during the Covid-19 crisis.

Some 19 private hospitals are being used to treat public patients throughout the outbreak for a three-month period.

The deal is costing taxpayers about €115 million a month.

O’Sullivan told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland: “The Private Hospitals Association deal for us, as private consultants, our thought is that this is a bad deal for the taxpayer, a bad deal for the doctors and a bad deal for patients.

“Last Thursday (Minister for Health) Simon Harris confirmed, for example, that there were 3,400 patients treated in the private hospitals in April, which works out at €24,000 per patient, per episode.

“That is not good value for money.”

Speaking earlier this month, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the €115 million estimated cost of the deal “may be right or it may be wrong“.

“It is an accurate estimate but it is not necessarily what the actual cost will be because we will not know that until the end, when the costs are calculated.  

“The agreement made between the HSE and the Private Hospitals Association was that this would be done on a not-for-profit basis; the agreement is for the covering of the costs of the private hospitals,” Varadkar said.

Contract issues

O’Sullivan, who is now a temporary HSE employee after signing the contract, said he has had to cancel his own patients until he becomes an independent practitioner again later this this year.

He added: “In the meantime, I will be seeing patients on HSE waiting lists who will be seen based according to need, which I’m very happy to do.

“But it must be realised that this contract was unilaterally imposed upon us by the Department of Health.

“There are other options for consultants for example a Type B or Type C or service level agreement, which many consultants will sign up to in a heartbeat.”

He said consultants are “not being offered this because of the intransigence in the Department of Health”.

“As part of my contract I could be moved to Bantry in the morning because there is a redeployment clause in my contract.

“My ongoing costs are €10,000 per month and I am being paid a public salary of €6,000 per month so I’m actually paying €4,000 to go to work in the morning.

“We would like a service level agreement where we could give our some time to the HSE and work with public patients, but then we’d also like our own time to deal with our own patients and be able to meet the obligations on our own patients,” O’Sullivan said.

At the end of March, it was announced that private hospitals would be made part of the public health system for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some 2,000 beds, nine laboratories and thousands of staff were drafted into the public system, with Harris stating at the time that “there can be no room for public versus private” when responding to the crisis.

With reporting by Órla Ryan 

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