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Private consultants concerned about 'ethical dilemma' caused by temporary HSE contracts

Consulting rooms of those who sign the HSE contract will have to shut to current and future private outpatients.

Image: Shutterstock/Syda Productions

PRIVATE HOSPITAL CONSULTANTS have said they are concerned about the ethical dilemma caused by the temporary HSE contracts allowing them to work on the frontline with Covid-19 patients. 

Approximately 500 private consultants will receive temporary HSE locum contracts to cover their work during the Covid-19 crisis period. 

However, consultants have said these contracts will have a negative impact on the patients they are treating at the moment in private practices.  

Under the current terms in the contract, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said consulting rooms will be forced to shut to current and future private outpatients. 

“This will have considerable knock-on detrimental impacts on the quality of care received by these patients and by all patients accessing hospital services,” the IHCA said in a statement.  

The types of treatments in these consulting rooms include patients with possible cancer symptoms, post-operative wounds and issues with blocked catheters. 

Dr Oisin O’Connell, a respiratory consultant in the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork and members of the IHCA committee, said the contract would prevent private patients presenting with new medical issues from being treated.

“Private only consultants believe the solution to this issue lies in a contractual arrangement which enables these consultants meet their obligations under the proposed HSE temporary locum contracts but also permits them to continue to treat their private patients outside of their HSE contract hours,” O’Connell said today in a statement.  

On 30 March, the government announced it had reached an agreement with private hospitals across the country to use their facilities for treating patients. 

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1′s Today with Sean O’Rourke, Dr O’Connell said consultants first received these contracts this morning from the HSE. 

“What’s landed on our table this morning is essentially an ethical dilemma for anyone working in full time private practice,” he said. 

O’Connell said there were two options – to sign the contract and cancel all clinic patients and discharge those awaiting future procedures to public waiting lists.

He said he will have to cancel his 2,500 patients and refer them to public hospitals if he signs the current HSE contract. 

“I want to work frontline. I want to look after Covid patients, but I’m left in the ethical dilemma that if I do that and accept the contract, I have to cancel all my clinic patients,” he said. 

I’m hoping that the HSE will engage with the IHCA to find a way we can continue to engage with continuity with our patients and also work front and centre.

“I can only assume that this was an unintended consequence that wasn’t foreseen with all of this.”  

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