Ban on private practice would cause ‘mass exodus’ of consultants

IHCA warns reforms could impoverish public hospitals and lead to catastrophic failure

Minister for Health Simon Harris: decoupling  private practice from public hospitals, as recommended in  the Government’s Sláintecare report, “is certainly worth considering”.  Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Health Simon Harris: decoupling private practice from public hospitals, as recommended in the Government’s Sláintecare report, “is certainly worth considering”. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Public hospitals would be impoverished and at risk of catastrophic failure in a winter crisis if they lose millions in private patient income as proposed under the Government’s Sláintecare blueprint, top doctors have said.

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) also suggested that any move to eliminate private practice in public hospitals would lead to a mass exodus of medical consultants and create a recruitment and retention crisis of “unprecedented scale”.

“This would significantly exacerbate the current crisis in which over 400 permanent consultant posts are either vacant or not filled on a permanent basis.”

The IHCA said in its annual report that instead of remedying delays in care, the Sláintecare proposals to remove private treatment in public hospitals would “give rise to an extreme two-tiered acute hospital system due to inadequate public hospital funding and capacity”.

Sufficient funding

The report is sceptical that the State would provide sufficient funding to public hospitals to compensate for the loss of €600 million per year which they currently receive in private patient income. It will be considered at the association’s annual conference on Saturday.

Hospital consultants with rights to treat fee-paying patients in public hospitals also potentially stand to lose millions in existing private income if the proposals were put in place.

In a speech to be delivered at the conference on Saturday, Minister for Health Simon Harris is expected to say that while decoupling private practice from public hospitals will be far from simple, “it is certainly worth considering.”

“There are work practice and contractual issues to consider. The [Sláintecare] report calls for an impact study to be done before this recommendation is implemented.

“But we can’t shy away from the core issue – that when the public system is under severe strain, when EDs are full and waiting lists grow, it is hard to defend an arrangement whereby private practice continues unquestioned.”