Clinical director defends hospital

CONSULTANTS at St Luke’s Hospital are not part of a 70-strong group of doctors around the country who have failed to comply with a HSE demand to repay thousands of euros for treating too many private patients.

CONSULTANTS at St Luke’s Hospital are not part of a 70-strong group of doctors around the country who have failed to comply with a HSE demand to repay thousands of euros for treating too many private patients.

Clinical director at St Luke’s Hospital, Dr Gary Courtney confirmed that no consultant at the hospital had devoted in excess of 40 percent of their workload to private patients. “There may be incidents where doctors are over the 20-30 percent guide but no consultant was over 40 percent,” he said.

The ultimatum was issued by the HSE last June after a group of consultants, some of whom earn €400,000 a year, failed to honour contractual obligations to confine their private patients quota to 20-30 percent of their workload. The quota was introduced by the last government in an effort to reduce the numbers of public patients on hospital waiting lists. The consultants were given until September 15 to pay back a percentage of their private patient fees as punishment for exceeding their quotas.

Following discussion with the medical unions in 2010, the HSE is focusing on those consultants with over 40% private practice as a first step. In this context approximately 70 consultants have been written to for breaching their public/private ratio.

Consultants are requested to provide 20% of the money owing as an initial step. To date, no consultant has remitted any money.

The HSE has written to consultants, indicating that failure to comply with the request to remit funds arising from breach of the Public/Private Ratios will result in an instruction to cease charging private patients. This follows the completion of a nine month period provided to each consultant, as per Consultant Contract 2008, for them to resolve the issue and query and data issues. In many cases, the consultant has had nearly 18 months to resolve the issue.

The HSE has encountered significant non-cooperation from consultants with any attempt to limit private practice in line with the provisions of Consultant Contract 2008. Nevertheless, the HSE anticipates that the matter will be resolved over the coming weeks.