Hospital faces fine for failing to clear waiting lists


A PUBLIC hospital is facing substantial fines for failing to meet Government targets for treating patients on its waiting list.

The chief operating officer of the Department of Health’s special delivery unit, Tony O’Brien, said it was in significant discussions with one institution about the extent of the penalty to be imposed.

He said all the relevant information had to be obtained before a final figure could be decided upon.

Mr O’Brien said the potential for the fine arose because a number of patients remained untreated at the end of March, having been on the waiting list for 12 months. He declined to identify the hospital concerned.

Under measures announced earlier this year, the Department of Health said hospitals that did not meet its target of treating patients on their waiting lists within one year would face potential fines of €25,000 per case per month.

Alternatively, hospitals would have to pay for the patients waiting longer than one year to be treated elsewhere.

The Government’s target for the maximum period on waiting lists is to be reduced to nine months from September.

Mr O’Brien said the hospital in question was not University College Hospital in Galway, which had the largest number of patients waiting longer than 12 months at the end of last year.

“Galway has been in what we call ‘special measures’ since it failed to meet targets for waiting lists last December. We are working with them very actively to ensure they meet the September target and it would not be very fruitful to impose incremental penalties on them as they go along.”

Beaumont Hospital, which had more than 80 patients waiting over a year for treatment according to figures released by the HSE in February, said last night that it had cleared its waiting lists.

Speaking about the controversy over the hiring of outside experts by the special delivery unit, Mr O’Brien said it had brought in people with specific expertise and a track record elsewhere. He said the benefits of that would be seen over time.

Mr O’Brien also said that more beds would be provided at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, where a capacity issue had been identified. Funding for 11 more beds would be forthcoming. He said where it was clear a hospital did not have the right capacity this needed to be addressed.