New law to bring private hospitals under remit of Hiqa

Legislation aimed at improving patient safety to be brought to Cabinet in autumn

Minister for Health Simon Harris TD. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Health Simon Harris TD. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Legislation giving the State’s health watchdog the power to investigate incidents in private healthcare will be brought to Cabinet in the autumn, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.

The legislation will place private hospitals, along with other private operators such as cosmetic surgery clinics, under the remit of the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) for the first time.

Mr Harris said a key objective of the new legislation would be to improve patient safety by ensuring healthcare providers do not operate below core standards that are applied in a consistent and systematic way.

Work on the general scheme of a Bill is well advanced and will be brought to Government in early autumn for formal drafting, Mr Harris told a Private Hospitals Association (PHA) conference.

Currently, Hiqa has powers to investigate issues in public hospitals, though it cannot impose sanctions or investigate individual complaints by patients. It has greater powers to maintain standards at residential care homes.

In recent years, there has been considerable controversy about specific private healthcare services, for example in relation to the fitting by clinics of faulty breast implants.

The conference heard calls for the public healthcare system to make greater use of private facilities to help cut waiting lists.

The PHA is unhappy that just €5 million of €20 million available this year for an initiative to cut waiting lists will be spent in the private sector.

PHA chief executive Simon Nugent claimed a “silo mentality” in the Department of Health and other parts of the public system was blinding the Government to “obvious solutions” for patients.

Public and private hospitals should be partnered to make headway for public patients, he said.

“Private hospitals stand ready to crank up activity to help public patients. While there are waiting list initiatives, these need to be stepped up rather than the current drops in the ocean that they are.”