Reid urges doctors to not undermine public confidence in health service

Beacon Hospital executive says his board not inclined to sign new agreement with HSE

The head of the HSE has urged doctors to build confidence and not to undermine the trust of the public in the health service.

HSE director general Paul Reid told the annual conference of the Irish Hospital Consultants' Association (IHCA) he believed the health service gained significant additional trust and confidence of the public and the Government over the last year in how it dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said the health service had secured an additional €2 billion in funding and was seeking to sustain and increase this further this into next year.

Mr Reid said the country and the health service was now entering a more challenge phase in relation to dealing with Covid and other forms of care. He accepted that “people were tired and frustrated”.

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However he said the voice of consultants was a very powerful one and if everyone could get on a shared page for the future of the health service would benefit all.

“There is an obligation on all of us to build the public’s trusts and confidence in health service and not fragment or damage that trust.”

‘Work with us’

Mr Reid said he was “frankly disappointed” at criticism of the HSE’s €600 million winter plan made by the IHCA.

He suggested that by early next year there could be 1,400 more beds available than were in place at the start of 2020. He said there was a net increase of over 150 consultants over the past year and a net increase of 5,000 staff in the health service overall.

He urged the IHCA “to work with us, to continue to galvanise the public and build confidence”.

The HSE chief said there was potential for a resolution to be reached soon regarding pay equality issues raised by hospital consultants.

However he said: “It can’t be just about pay. It [also] has to be about reform and change in work practices.”

He said there was a need to look at differences between the two systems of health care in Ireland – the public and the private.

He said there was a role for both. However he said one – the public system – had quite massive waiting lists while the he private system did not.

He said there was a need to see “what issues emerge and how we can do things differently”.

Mr Reid suggested that any future arrangement with private hospitals would be very different to that put in place last Spring when the Government effectively took over their facilities.

He said any future agreement would be of “a more transactional basis”.

The deputy chief executive of the Beacon Hospital Brian Fitzgerald told the conference his board at this point was "not inclined" to sign a new agreement with the Government and HSE.

However he said if there was a major crisis, hospitals such as Beacon would step up and do what it could.

Lack of understanding

He said after the agreement with the Government ended in June his hospital had got back to full capacity and September had been the busiest ever. He said surgery was running across six days per week and diagnostics were operating on a seven-day basis.

He said he believed there was a lack of understanding about private capacity and private consultant practice in Government and in the Department of Health.

He said he did not believe that Government’s proposed public patient-only contract for hospital consultants “would be the panacea that we think it might be for certain specialities and procedural-based specialties”.

Mr Reid said that there were things the health service had got right and wrong in how it had dealt with Covid-19.

He said more elements of the Sláintecare reforms were introduced in six months than would normally have been in several years. He maintained the testing and tracing system introduced was one of the best in Europe in terms of volume and turn-around time while Ireland had "punched well about our weight" in terms of securing personal protective equipment.

However he said there were issues around nursing homes and who was responsible for what. He said the disease had also “caught us on the hop in terms of asymptomatic presentation in nursing homes and particularly the transmission levels.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent