Private hospitals warn of job cuts if €78m fund ceases


PRIVATE HOSPITALS around the country say they could face financial difficulties and job losses following the decision by the Minister for Health to cease the work of the National Treatment Purchase Fund.

The fund spent almost €78 million in private hospitals last year buying treatment for public patients who were more than three months on public hospital waiting lists.

The Mater Private Hospital in Dublin received €23 million from the fund in 2010. The Blackrock Clinic in Dublin got €9 million, and the Galway Clinic, in Galway city, received €8.6 million.

Nineteen private hospitals received payments from the fund last year, including one in Derry.

Earlier this week, Minister for Health James Reilly announced the introduction of a new agency, the “special delivery unit”, to cut hospital waiting lists and waiting times in emergency departments.

The resources of the treatment purchase fund will be at its disposal.

The fund has been told to stop arranging private treatment for public patients until the new agency has decided how resources to cut waiting lists should best be used. It was also told some of its budget would be diverted to tackle waiting times in emergency departments.

Sources in the private hospital sector have said they are very concerned about the effect a cut or loss of funding from the fund would have on private hospitals. They fear there would be a significant impact on waiting lists and on employment.

Many private hospitals have a dedicated office to deal with referrals from the treatment purchase fund and jobs there could be at risk, sources have said.

The employment of frontline staff, including nurses and doctors,could also be affected if referrals are reduced or cut.

A spokeswoman for the Independent Hospitals Association of Ireland, a representative body for private hospitals, said they understood no firm decisions had yet been made in relation to how the new agency would “utilise the capacity that the private sector has to offer”.

She said since the treatment purchase fund’s inception in 2002, members of the association had “provided a high standard of care and treatment for over 200,000 patients”.

Private hospitals would continue to work with the Department of Health and the Minister on this and other schemes, “and we wish the Minister well with his new initiative”, she said.