Full-time private hospital consultants have established a new association in response to ongoing frustration at the representation provided to them by existing medical unions, it has emerged.
The Independent Medical and Dental Consultants Association (IMDCA) is the name of the new body.
The IMDCA already has 255 members and its articles of association are currently being devised, a senior full-time private consultant told the Medical Independent (MI).
A core committee of 17 individuals are in place and leadership roles are being determined. The association will represent full and part-time consultants in private practice, including dentists.
Full-time private consultant Mr Fergal McGoldrick, Orthopaedic Surgeon at the Hermitage Clinic, said “we are forming the association in response to what’s happened over the past eight weeks”.
“We feel the IHCA and the IMO have not adequately represented us, and have not been forceful enough. We have been hung out to dry.
“We have been bulldozed into a deal and effectively put out of work, without being able to provide continuity of care to our patients.”
Another private consultant informed this newspaper that the association was being formed because they had become “disillusioned” with current union representation.
A spokesperson for the IHCA said the union continues to “engage with the Department of Health and HSE” in seeking more flexibility and less costly contract types for full-time private consultants.
Following an unsuccessful meeting on 8 May between IHCA officials, which included private consultants, and Minister for Health Simon Harris, the spokesperson said “it is disappointing that the Minister and his officials continued to offer only a type A contract or contracts for service where a practice is incorporated”.
“It was strongly emphasised by the delegation, directly to the Minister and his senior officials, that this contract type flexibility is essential to ensure continuity of care for WTPP consultant patients in outpatient clinics and their follow-on hospital care where urgently required.”
Meanwhile, a number of full-time private consultants have resigned from the temporary contract established by Government in response to Covid-19.
According to the Department of Health, around 320 private consultants out of a total 600 consultants nationally had accepted temporary contracts, which expire at the end of July.
However, reports have emerged that many of these consultants have submitted their intention to resign from the contract, with sources suggesting around 15 consultants in Kerry alone have submitted resignation letters, along with others in Dublin.
Around 97 per cent of the approximately 60 full-time private consultants at Bon Secours Hospital, Cork, have signed the temporary contract, but many of these are considering stepping away from the deal, it is understood.
This is because many cannot provide care to their existing private patients under the arrangement. Furthermore, they are unable to accept new referrals and bed occupancy in private hospitals remains low.
On 20 May bed occupancy in HSE-run private hospitals was just 35 per cent, according to Hospital Inpatient Enquiry (HiPE) data published by the IMDCA.
There are also concerns about the offer made to consultants who were initially reluctant to sign up to temporary contracts.
Some private hospitals assured consultants that if the HSE did not agree to cover the costs of their private clinic rooms while they undertook State work, that the hospital would issue payment if the consultant signed the contract.
But MI understands that, to date, some consultants have received no payments covering costs for their private rooms.
Meanwhile, a decision on whether the deal between the HSE and Private Hospitals Association, brokered in March, will be extended is due on 25 May. The current agreement ceases at the end of August.