Tallaght hospital letters typed in Philippines

 

TALLAGHT HOSPITAL has resorted to having correspondence typed up in the Philippines in order to speed up its service to patients.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) says the hospital supplements the work of its medical secretaries by using a private company which outsources the work of typing letters to “another country”.

It declined to tell Labour TD Robert Dowds where this work was being carried out, but patients have been told anecdotally by staff that it is the Philippines.

The Irish contract company encrypts the content of the correspondence and no patient identifiers are used, the HSE assured Mr Dowds earlier this month.

The Dublin Mid-West TD had asked Minister for Health James Reilly about the practice, but his parliamentary questions was referred for answer to the HSE.

It said Tallaght hospital uses medical secretaries to transcribe dictated reports and letters prepared by consultants and other staff. But in order to provide “quality and efficient turnaround time”, this work was supplemented by outside suppliers.

Last year, the hospital was mired in controversy when it emerged that almost 58,000 patient X-rays went unreported and more than 3,400 letters from GPs were not dealt with.

At the time, extra staff were brought in to deal with the backlog.

Mr Dowds said he found it odd that the hospital found it necessary to outsource the work to the Far East.

“You’d imagine important medical letters need to be typed up accurately and close to the source of the information. There would have to be worries over confidential information getting lost or being divulged.”

Tallaght appears to be the only Dublin hospital that currently outsources typing work abroad, though at least one other may be considering it, according to other information supplied to Mr Dowds by the HSE.

St James’s Hospital, James Connolly Hospital and Stewarts Hospital all said they do not outsource administrative tasks to foreign countries.

But St Vincent’s Hospital said that following the recent voluntary redundancy scheme in the health service, it was “exploring options” as to how best to maintain essential administrative services for patients.