The Dail's public spending watchdog has called on the Health Service Executive to ensure (HSE) that it collects up to €74m owed to it by private health insurers.
The HSE has been under severe financial pressure, with an overspend of €360m last year on its €14bn budget.
But it is relying on hospital consultants to sign off on claim forms so that it can claim back the cost of the treatment of private patients in public hospitals.
The Dail's Public Accounts committee has now published a report stating that over €74m was owed last year by private health insurers to the HSE – with up to €8m of this outstanding for over a year. It criticised consultants for failing to sign off on the forms in time.
Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness, who is the committee chairman, said this was no way to run a health service.
"While steps were taken through the Labour Relations Commission to ensure that consultants signed off on claims within 14 days, we will follow up with the HSE to ensure it collects the money," he said.
In its report, the committee recommended that the HSE should consider naming consultants who were slow in signing claim forms.
Fine Gael Dublin Central TD Pascal Donohoe said it was totally unacceptable that the HSE had to go to the Labour Relations Commission to get agreement from consultants on the issue.
The HSE was unable to say last night how much in payments remained outstanding from private health insurers, but it said it had got an upfront payment of €104m from them towards their bills last year which would have "contributed significantly".
A HSE spokeswoman said it had put in place a number of measures to speed up the collection of the payments, including an electronic claims system set up in eight hospitals last year.
"We no longer need to rely on a manual claims form process – it can be done electronically. It will be rolled out in other hospital sites this year," she said.