Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health Stephen Donnelly has today called on the Government to consider immediately cancelling the private hospital contracts.

He has asked Minister Harris to urgently consider agreeing a new contract which would provide a fallback of 400 private hospital beds if they were required as a result of a potential second surge of COVID-19.

Speaking in the Dáil Deputy Donnelly said the funds saved from cancelling the contracts could be used to treat public patients via the NTPF.

He explained, “I understand this is a big call to make now but if something is broken, we need to fix it – and this new contract is clearly not working.

“The reason for taking over the private hospitals back in March was completely understandable. It provided an extra 2,000 beds in the event of a big surge in COVID-19 cases in our hospital network.

“At this point health officials agree that this is no longer required. While there are many people whose lives have been upended by this horrendous virus, the threat of overwhelming our health service has thankfully not materialised.

“The HSE and the Department of Health envisaged that private hospitals would be used for routine scheduled care in order to tackle the increasing waiting lists. They are failing to realise their own ambition.

“The reality is very different, and the implementation has been nothing short of a shambles. People with heart complications, possible cancer referrals and those with deteriorating eyesight don’t have time on their side. Neither does the young man in Cork whose spinal fusion surgery was cancelled nor the man in Offaly who still has no date set for his urgently needed stents.

“We are paying €115 million per month for empty beds, shut doctors’ rooms, dark operating theatres and unused diagnostic equipment. It really is the worst of both worlds.

“I understand there is to be a review at the end of the month but let’s be realistic – the longer this goes on the harder it will be to reverse. We need bold decisions to be made now to make a difference for those who don’t have the luxury of time,” concluded Deputy Donnelly.