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Saturday 23 September 2017

Insurers still in dark over 'rogue' doctors

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

Patients and private health insurance companies are still in the dark about the identity of hospital consultants who have been banned from collecting any fees for their work.

The consultants were told nearly a week ago by the Health Service Executive (HSE) that they could no longer collect fees from their private-insurance patients.

The doctors remain on salaries of up to €180,000 for treating public patients.

But they lost their private practice rights after refusing to pay a financial penalty for treating more private patients than they were entitled to.

However, the private health insurance companies have not been informed who the consultants are, even though they are treating some of their members.

The doctors can continue to treat the patients but will be stopped from submitting any invoice by their hospital managers.

A large group of consultants, who are employed in public hospitals on high salaries, treated too many private patients and were liable for the financial penalty, which they should have paid into their hospital's research fund.

However, at least seven have refused to pay the penalty and, since Friday, have been legally barred from collecting fees from private companies.

The HSE has confirmed a number of doctors have lost their private-practice rights but has refused to name them or the hospitals in which they work.

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has disputed the methods used to calculate the public and private ratio of patients treated by its members.

Incorrect

"The ratios of public and private work are incorrect in some cases. We have had discussions with the HSE in relation to the measurement issue and it was agreed clinical activity, which is not currently counted, will be included," said Secretary General Martin Varley.

At the end of June there were 54,000 adults and children on public waiting lists -- a rise of 9,426 compared with a year earlier.

The hospital consultants involved in the row signed a new contract in 2008 and agreed to limit the number of private patients they treated in return for a higher salary.

Other consultants, who were given a three-month ultimatum to pay the penalty, were allowed to "park" payment after they reduced their private practice. If they exceed their quota again they will be liable for the penalty.

In contrast, hospitals are getting tough with patients who have failed to pay bills. The HSE now employs the services of debt collection agencies in 23 hospitals to follow up on debts after a certain period of time.

Irish Independent

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