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Concern over private hospital plans highlighted again

A Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Bon Secours Hospital Cork, has voiced concern that full-time private consultants will have no access to patients under the proposed consultant contract agreement.

 Dr Cróchán O’Sullivan told the Medical Independent: “The contract proposed by the HSE forbids us from seeing patients in our rooms thereby compromising continuity of care. All private hospitals are almost empty as 600 consultants have no contract to work.”

He said “private hospitals are essentially planes with no pilots.”

The proposed contract is “Type A with no term limit and we have to give three months notice to leave even though this is only supposed to be a short term contract,” according to Dr O’Sullivan.

“Our main concern is that if we signed this Type A contract we can’t see our own patients and they will not be able to access us.”

Despite his concerns, he fully welcomed the use of private hospitals in view of the crisis facing the health service.

A circular to IHCA members on the proposed HSE contract for full-time private practice consultants, issued late on Sunday, confirms that the contract “does not have a start or end date/term of employment or a termination provisions, nor does it specify the salary scale to apply”.

IHCA Secretary Mr Martin Varley also wrote in the correspondence to members that: “This contrasts with the Heads of Agreement in the contract with private hospitals which, it is understood, may provide for a three-month service period, with potential for extension by one month as determined by the State and a fifth month by mutual agreement between the State and each private hospital.”

According to the circular, the IHCA has been in contact with the Medical Protection Society, which has said there are many questions are uncertainties regarding the proposed contract, including the scope of State indemnity “in the context of the proposed framework/contracts and its interface with indemnity offered by MPS”.

Mr Varley added that the Association would contact the HSE after receiving legal advice.

The IHCA issued a statement earlier this week on Government’s plans, which were in line with Dr O’Sullivan’s concerns.

According to Dr Oisin O’Connell, Respiratory Consultant: “The current contractual arrangements proposed by the HSE would result in the withdrawal of private hospitals consultants’ ability to provide ongoing care to their existing patients. It would equally prevent private patients presenting with new medical issues from being treated.

“Without access to consulting rooms, private patients with urgent and ongoing medical needs will now present for care to emergency departments at acute public hospitals – all of which are already experiencing pressures in managing Covid-19.

“Private-only consultants believe the solution to this issue lies in a contractual arrangement which enables these consultants meet their obligations under the proposed HSE temporary locum contracts but also permits them to continue to treat their private patients outside of their HSE contract hours.

“All hospital consultants, whether public or private, are eager and anxious to play their part in the delivery of frontline hospital care during this national emergency. However, all solutions must be well thought out and not add to the existing pressures across our hospitals.

“We are continuing to liaise with the Department of Health and HSE to ensure that all proposed measures protect all patients and their access to quality care”, added Dr O’Connell.

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