Friday 28 November 2014

The Punt: Mater Private boss predicts more closures

Published 12/06/2014 | 02:30

Mater Private Hospital in Dublin
Mater Private Hospital in Dublin

THE boss of Dublin's Mater Private Hospital, Fergus Clancy, has warned that more private hospitals will close. He would say that, was the first Mandy Rice-Davies reaction of the Punt to these comments.

The exodus from private health insurance will also push public services to a "tipping point" where they are no longer able to cope, Mr Clancy maintained.

Fewer people with health insurance means less business for private hospitals, so it is in the interests of people like Mr Clancy to decry the large numbers of people giving up health insurance.

Except, that the chief executive of one of the largest private hospitals in the State may have a point.

He was reacting to figures showing that 266,000 people have ditched private health insurance since the squeeze on household incomes began in 2008.

Mr Clancy said that the large numbers giving up their health insurance policies represents a "significant time bomb" for the public health services.

He said that if the trend continues, more hospital closures were likely within the next two years following the closure of Mount Carmel hospital in Dublin.

These sentiments are something that health minister James Reilly, and his successor, need to think hard about.

Large numbers of people are ditching health insurance for a number of reasons, but government policy has been responsible for premiums rising so much.

Mr Clancy suggested that the Health Service Executive (HSE) should charge health insurers less to use public beds for private patients. He said that the plans for universal health insurance (UHI) were admirable, but implementation by 2019 was "beyond challenging".

Food for thought there for the minister and his mandarins.

Sisk looks outside box for new directors

Venerable, family controlled, construction group Sisk is bulking up the board of its Sicon unit with the appointment of two outsiders as new independent directors.

Like other civil engineering concerns battered by the recession – and subsequent collapse in capital spending by the State – Sicon has been looking outside Ireland for growth in recent years.

So it makes sense that incoming director Mike Peasland is former chief executive of construction giant Balfour Beatty's UK business, having joined its then small Scottish unit as a civil engineer in 1970.

Fellow Scot Ken Reid, among other experience, was a 20-year veteran and former director of German construction firm Bilfinger Berger. Also a civil engineer, his background is in international public-private partnerships, power services and concessions and project investments.

Sisk Group has been around since 1859 and a turnover of €1.1bn a year makes it one of the country's biggest private companies.

Think tank delivers the not-so-good news

Yet another headache for the Government, courtesy of the Economic and Social Research Institute.

The think tank is becoming a real thorn in the side for the coalition, or at least its affable frontman John FitzGerald is.

A few weeks ago, just as the various parties were preparing to slug it out at the European elections, Mr FitzGerald said the Government might be able to get away with having a neutral budget in October and not having to impose the planned €2bn of tax hikes and spending cuts. Planning for the €2bn was prudent, but it was a possibility, he said.

And now he's saying hard-pressed taxpayers will face a substantial increase in water charges in the coming years, with the hoped for €500m tax take from the charges next year actually only bringing in about €350m.

That's really not the sort of politically unpalatable comment the Government will want to have to digest.

Oh what a mess for poor Phil Hogan. Let's hope he doesn't go the way of his old colleague Alan Shatter.

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