Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson, Billy Kelleher has said he is deeply disturbed but not surprised following last night’s RTÉ Investigates programme that looked at a number of practices by private consultants in Irish public hospitals.
“This is an issue that is having a very negative effect on the delivery of health services all over the country. In my own county and city of Cork for example, excessively long waiting lists for cataract surgery, have been raised by me and my fellow Fianna Fáil colleagues for some time.
“In respect of consultants not fulfilling their public contract commitments, there is a mechanism in place for hospitals and the HSE to investigate, and to issue warnings, and instigate disciplinary procedures. Why this isn’t happening all across the board must be explained by the Minister for Health.
“Today at the Oireachtas Health Committee, I called for a full independent audit of the level of consultant adherance to their contracts.
“Taxpayers are paying their salaries for working in our public hospitals. We know that most waiting lists are a result of there not being enough consultants to see patients.
“Every hour that is not spent by HSE consultants meeting with patients or performing procedures adds to the growing waiting lists in this country.
“Consultants employed by the HSE must accept that their priority should be their public patients.
“Additionally, the ability of private patients to skip public patients to access procedures and operations goes against what a publicly funded health service should be about.
“Fianna Fáil believes that there must be one common waiting list for public hospitals. There should not, and must not, be fast track waiting lists for private patients accessing treatment from private consultants working in public hospitals.
“In our public health system, clinical need and not ability to pay must be the key determinant in accessing services. There will be times when private patients need to make use of our public hospital system when services are not available in private hospitals, but they cannot be allowed to skip the queue and get ahead of public patients who have been waiting months and, in many cases, years.
“The question needs to be asked: why are our public hospitals allowing this to take place? The only logical answer is that the public hospitals see some form of financial incentive in allowing private patients skip public patients. That is not acceptable.
“The citizens who fund our public health system should not be leapfrogged by those who are simply able to afford additional private insurance,” concluded Kelleher.