Galway Hospital faces €1.176m fine over waiting lists
Galway University Hospital is facing a fine of €1.176m over five months, unless it reduces its long waiting lists.
A financial penalty of €864,692 may be imposed on Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, while Tallaght Hospital faces a bill of €456,949, newly released figures reveal.
The aim is to have no public patient facing a delay of more than 18 months for an operation or specialist clinic appointment.
The graded series of HSE fines - totalling €5.79m over five months - are being imposed on all acute hospitals except Bantry General Hospital, Cork, and St Columcille's Hospital, Loughlinstown, Dublin.
The initial monthly fine imposed on Galway University Hospital is €235,322.
A HSE spokeswoman said if the individual hospitals improved their performance they would be spared a fine the following month.
The complicated HSE scheme also involves hospitals being able to bid for a slice of a €51m pot - additional funding obtained by Health Minister Leo Varadkar - which they can use to outsource public patients who have been waiting longest for private treatment.
Other hospitals facing potentially heavy fines include University Hospital Waterford (€421,218); the Mater Hospital (€416,448); Cork University Hospital (€368,348); Sligo Regional Hospital (€326,110) and Letterkenny General Hospital (€214,284).
Hospitals which have the lowest fines are Cavan General and Louth County Hospital (€651) and Nenagh and Wexford General Hospital (€1,302).
The HSE said that under the direction of the minister, it has written to the chiefs of the hospital groups across the country which have failed to maintain compliance with the 18-month waiting list target since June 2015.
The most recent figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund show another rise in those facing the longest delays, despite promises that such delays would end in June.
At the end of last month, more than 13,000 patients were waiting more than 18 months to see a specialist and 2,200 were waiting as long for an operation.
The HSE said that 2,120 of those waiting over 18 months for an outpatient appointment will be seen in the next six weeks. And 2,501 of those waiting 15-18 months for an outpatient appointment have already been given a slot in the next six weeks.
All hospital groups have provided plans to address the numbers of patients to be treated by year end, with a view to having nobody waiting over 15 months.
Meanwhile, nurses at the emergency department of St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin are to start a work-to-rule this morning, which will involve not doing duties such as answering phones. They claim it will not affect patients but would disrupt management. The action is in response to overcrowding.
The task force charged with reducing overcrowding also met yesterday. Hospitals are being told to ensure they can open more beds from next month.