University Hospital Kerry accused of delays in sending patients for endoscopes

Over 100 people cleared by treatment fund to have scopes carried out in nearby private hospital

The function of the NTPF is to arrange for the provision of hospital treatment to certain patients, often in cases where lengthy waiting lists in the public system delay their appointments. Photograph: iStock

The function of the NTPF is to arrange for the provision of hospital treatment to certain patients, often in cases where lengthy waiting lists in the public system delay their appointments. Photograph: iStock

 

University Hospital Kerry has been accused of “significant delays” in sending over 100 patients for endoscopes at a private hospital.

It is understood the issue relates to about 120 people at higher degrees of priority who were cleared by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) to have scopes carried out at the nearby Bon Secours Hospital in Tralee.

That clearance is understood to have been given in February, possibly earlier, but to date none of the procedures have taken place.

The function of the NTPF is to arrange for the provision of hospital treatment to certain patients, often in cases where lengthy waiting lists in the public system delay their appointments. It did not immediately comment on exactly when it approved the private treatment for the Kerry patients.

In the Dáil on Thursday, Kerry Fine Gael TD Brendan Griffin said the NTPF played an important role in addressing public waiting lists.

“And it’s also crucial that acute hospitals in the public system co-operate with the NTPF as they go about their business in the interest of patient safety,” he said.

“My information suggests that University Hospital Kerry has not been co-operating with the NTPF recently resulting in significant delays for patients who are . . . waiting for scopes.

“And Tánaiste I want to ask how is this happening and can you assure me that those patients will get the scopes that they absolutely need, [these] very important diagnostic procedures?”

University Hospital Kerry did not comment on the passage of time or the status of the patient procedures in question. In a statement it said it was working to manage the effect of Covid-19 on the waiting list for routine endoscopy cases.

“All options to address the waiting list continue to be explored by the hospital to improve access and generate additional capacity through a variety of means such as insourcing (out of hours capacity) and NTPF funding,” it said.

“All options continue to be explored by both UHK and the Hospital Group in an effort to improve patient access to endoscopy services within a timely manner.”

Responding to Mr Griffin in the Dáil, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar who was taking questions, said that in general the NTPF system “should be used” in cases where people are awaiting procedures such as scopes.

“It does mean the people will get the test or the appointment or the investigation or the operation they need sooner,” he said. “And I don’t know the details in relation to University Hospital Kerry but it would be a shame if that resource wasn’t being used.”