Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health, Billy Kelleher has said he is alarmed at the allegations of inappropriate behaviour of certain HSE employees who have sought to harass, coerce, and in certain circumstances bully patients into signing waivers giving up their right to public care in Emergency Departments.

Deputy Kelleher made the comments after reports in the national media suggested that there have been concerted attempts by elements within the public hospital system to increase the level of income from patients, presenting to EDs, with private health insurance by asking them to waive their right to public care.

“The Health Insurance (Amendment) Act, passed in 2012, under James Reilly’s watch, and implemented by his two successors in the Department of Health, Leo Varadkar and Simon Harris removed the distinction between public, semi-private and public in the health system.

“This type of orchestrated attempt at increasing income via private patients through means which clearly go against the ethos of a public health system cannot be ever tolerated.

“Some of the means of convincing patients to sign waivers go completely against every code of ethics that should underpin a public health system.

“Many patients are in highly vulnerable states, and are susceptible to pressure being applied by people in positions of authority.

“The HSE is clearly struggling, and is desperate for funding. However, these attempts at bullying patients with private insurance into waiving their right to public health care, and charging their insurers, even though private care may not be provided is immoral in my eyes.

“Minister Harris must investigate these accusations, and if they are proven to be true, respond in a swift manner.

“He must also explain if he knew this sort of activity was taking place, and if he did, why he has allowed it continue. If he wasn’t aware of it, he should have been questioning why so much money was being raised from it when Minister Reilly at the time of the passing of the legislation expected it to raise just €30 million per year.

“The only real solution is additional funding for the public health system, and the increased recruitment and retention of staff,” concluded Kelleher.