Doctors use public hospital facilities for private work
Consultants at some public hospitals are paying nothing to use rooms for their private patient appointments.
Inconsistencies in the use of public facilities for private patients have emerged, as some hospitals confirmed they do charge for such use.
New figures have revealed how at least four hospitals in the Dublin and Mid-Leinster region have not been charging a fee to the consultants for private outpatient appointments.
The information was contained in a response to a question posed by Cllr Thomas Redmond, at a regional forum on hospitals.
Dublin Mid-Leinster, The Midland Regional Hospital in Mullingar, Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise, Naas General Hospital and St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny all confirmed that there were no charges.
Cllr Redmond (SF), a member of Kildare County Council, said the arrangements "beggar belief".
"If a business such as private medicine is working from an address it beggars belief that it is not paying rents at the market rate," he told the Irish Independent.
According to the response, Tallaght Hospital confirmed that there is a €90 charge per session at the hospital.
A total of 37 consultants use the rooms and the hospital responded that the total revenue received by the hospital was €7,830.
This works out at just over two sessions per consultant in the time period, which wasn't specified in the response, but believed to be last year.
Cllr Redmond said this needed to be examined further.
"Tallaght hospital, a fine hospital, has many business managers but only takes in €7,830," he said.
"This is income from 37 consultants using private rooms. A cost of about €210 a year. You wouldn't hire a room in a community centre for that."
St James's Hospital in Dublin's South Inner city confirmed that it charged a "sessional rate" to consultants who use the private clinic.
However, it declined to elaborate further on this.
The Coombe Women and Infant University Hospital said the rate was dependent on usage and it varied from €150 to €170 per outpatient session.
The nearby Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin said the private clinic on the grounds of its hospital was operated independently.
Figures are not available for the rates charged at other hospitals around the country.
Cllr Redmond criticised the disparity in charges and called for a review. "These are bizarre practices and certainly not cost effective. Let there be a level playing pitch and end this two-tier health system," he said.
A statement from the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group said private clinics in public hospitals were subject to the national consultants' contract of 2008.
"The units are provided by the HSE and funded by the consultant," the health body said.
This means doctors are expected to use their own staff in these facilities.
"As such, they are considered independent by hospital management and therefore no fee is charged for their use.
"This is the case for Naas General Hospital, Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore and Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise in the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group," it said.