Banking on the good health of the primary care sector
He cites the example of Ennis General Hospital, for which Centric provides radiology services.
“Since contracting the radiology services, the cost of providing the service has been reduced by 30 per cent, turnaround times have gone from two to three weeks down to nine hours, and we can have a report ready within 15 minutes. It’s better for the patients, the GPs and has a material impact in terms of cost savings.”
Encouraging greater independent sector involvement in the provision of public healthcare services is, of course, implicit in this vision. What are Cox’s views on the involvement of the private sector in public healthcare provision?
“I believe the State has a responsibility to look after the health of its people, and that every Irish citizen is entitled to world-class healthcare. That’s why universal healthcare is a great idea.
“But I do think that the Government being a payer of healthcare should be slightly different from the Government having to provide that healthcare.”
Pointing out the savings that can be made, he notes that in Australia over 60 per cent of radiology is done by the independent sector; in the UK, it’s about 10 per cent, and in Ireland, it’s around 5 per cent.
“There’s a lot of room for development,” he says.
The introduction of a widespread primary care strategy in Ireland has become a protracted process – not least the issue of GP buy-in.
The success of the Government’s primary care strategy is predicated in part on a sufficient number of primary health providers being willing to partake in a shared services model.
“For some GPs, it’s a great solution; others are just happier to do it themselves,” Cox responds.
“We’re not the solution for every GP but there is a sizeable group out there who want to be part of it.”
The crucial driver, he admits, will be cost.
“Primary care is a classic example of how you need to spend money to save money. While the HSE is committed to primary care centres, the real question is whether it will sustain the level of investment needed to drive innovation in healthcare practices.”
It will also require a cultural and mindset shift.
“Embracing primary care will require some of the long-held views and, to be honest, long-held vested interests to be challenged.
“In the end, it is for the good of the patient. We’re not saying that we’re the panacea for all problems, but primary care is the future and we want to be part of it.
“The Government needs around 200 of these centres. We’re not going to build all of them, of course, but, if we can build 10 of them, well, that’s something.”
CV Maurice Cox
Name: Maurice Cox
Position: Chief executive, Centric Health
Why he’s in the news:Centric Health announced this week it is to build 10 new primary care centres, leading to the creation of 200 jobs, following a €20 million investment from private equity company Metric Capital Partners.
Family: Married to Aoife, four children.
Education: Trinity College, Dublin and Cambridge University.
Hobbies: Deeply involved with Orbis, a charity that works to eliminate blindness and restore sight to people in southern Ethiopia.
Interesting fact: He played rugby against Greencore chief executive Patrick Coveney in an Oxford versus Cambridge varsity match.