Private hospitals call for public-private initiative to reduce delays

Staff could be rostered, equipment used in the evenings and over weekends, says PHA

Scanning equipment is already used from 7am to 7pm in many private hospitals, and the PHA says this could be extended to meet demand from outsource public patients.

Scanning equipment is already used from 7am to 7pm in many private hospitals, and the PHA says this could be extended to meet demand from outsource public patients.

 

Thousands of patients could be taken off waiting lists and hospital trolleys through a joint public-private initiative to reduce delays in the health system, according to the State’s private hospitals.

The Private Hospitals Association (PHA) says staff could be rostered and equipment used in the evenings and over weekends to help reduce waiting lists and take the pressure off the public system.

The PHA has published six proposals it says will bring positive outcomes for patients and support the public health system grappling with long waiting lists and emergency department overcrowding.

Structured waiting list
A structured “waiting list capacity initiative” should be designed to run for the next five years and involving both the public and the private sectors, it says. Previous attempts to outsource lists to private hospitals have had mixed results, but the association says this is because they were short-term, ad hoc initiatives.

The PHA says a waiting list initiative can work if it is the subject of consultation before starting, is predictable, designed to run for several years and can be designed to dovetail with troughs in other work.

Scanning equipment is already used from 7am to 7pm in many private hospitals, and the PHA says this could be extended to meet demand from outsource public patients.

Close partnership
“Our members can help in the treatment of many waiting-list patients but we can only make a significant impact if we work in close partnership with the public hospitals system,” said Simon Nugent, chief executive of the PHA.

There was no reason why any patient should have to wait more than 13 weeks for a diagnostic test such as an MRI or endoscopy, given the investment made in equipment by private hospitals and the HSE in recent years, he said.

He cited the example of the private Galway Clinic, which last year saw 500 urology patients who had been on the public waiting list for up to three years. The hospital has also been provided robotic prostatectomy treatment for 50 public patients each year.

Pilot projects
The PHA says patients can be moved more quickly through emergency departments by using all available beds in both the public and private sectors. It says pilot projects should be set up this year involving neighbouring facilities to explore how such an initiative could work.

Other proposals include a coordinated approach to attracting consultants to work in Ireland; a new competitive system for commissioning healthcare by 2018; coordination of planned health investment to avoid duplication; and a taskforce to boost cooperation between the private and public systems.

The PHA, formerly known as the Independent Hospitals Alliance of Ireland, has 19 members.