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Health Minister responds to RTE consultant investigation

Minister Harris said:


”I can only describe the behaviour highlighted by last night’s RTE Investigates programme, as brazen, immoral and unfair. Some consultants behaving this way brings the system into disrepute and lets down a lot of their colleagues, who go above and beyond every day caring for patients and often work well beyond the hours required under their contracts.

“We cannot have a situation where people are paid for hours and don’t do them. This would not be tolerated for nurses or other grades in the service. I have been informed by the HSE this morning that formal investigations will now be launched in the wake of last night’s programme.
”It is the responsibility of management to make sure these contracts are being enforced and I have asked the HSE to ensure that more robust measures are in place in 2018 to make sure consultants comply with their contractual obligations. I will require absolute assurances on this point. 


”For some time my Department has been working closely with the HSE on this.  In fact, several months ago, the Department wrote to the HSE emphasising the need to pursue compliance. I am very clear that consultants must deliver their work commitment to the public system.

“In the longer term I have established an independent group, chaired by Dr Donal de Buitléir, to examine the impact of separating private practice from the public hospital system. This was one of the key recommendations of the Sláintecare Report.
”I was struck by the personal stories highlighted by RTE last night and the very distressing impact on patients of waiting for procedures, and I would like to assure people that I am committed to improving access for public patients to public hospital care.”

In response to the documentary, the HSE stated Ireland has a unique and complex health system in which hospital consultants have a right to treat private patients under their employment contract with the HSE.

According to the Executive, this poses a number of challenges for the public hospital system, even though many consultants work beyond their contracted hours in public hospitals treating patients. 

Data from September 2017 shows the public/private mix for consultants across all hospitals nationally is 82% public for elective in-patients and over 85.8% public for day-cases (above the 80% target set out in the 2008 contract). National performance has been consistent at this level.

The RTE Investigates programme details a number of cases where it appears this was not the case.

“The HSE expects all consultants to adhere to the requirements of their contract. Not doing so is unacceptable and each Hospital Group is required to monitor and ensure the contracted public hours are being delivered by consultants,” according to the statement. 

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