Thursday 25 December 2014

Money for 'patient comfort' used to upgrade consultant's office

Published 08/07/2014 | 02:30

MONEY from a "patient comfort" account was inappropriately used for items such as the educational and research expenses of a hospital consultant who later left the hospital.

The investigation looked at the fund in Letterkenny Hospital in Donegal and also found it was used for items such as the upgrading of machines for the cardiac department and furnishings in the oncology department which should have been paid for directly by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

It was also used to upgrade a consultant's office and ward area within the paediatric department. The consultant – whose educational and research expenses were paid for in 2011 up to March 2012 – left the hospital the same month.

Two payments totalling €20,449 were paid to a local hotel for breast cancer ball expenses. Income relating to this fundraiser amounted to €43,804. In some instances approval was given retrospectively.

In response to the audit carried out last October, management said all contributions from the account which includes donations, bequests and gifts from former patients, families and friends, are used for the better care of patients. Auditors said the controls over the account which comprised of €1.2m need to be reviewed.

A separate audit of the health promotion section covering Donegal, Sligo-Leitrim and west Cavan found there was no proper competitive tendering system in place. The audit found some budget profiles were unrealistic – for instance it was set at €6,000 for books but €175,904 was spent.

The auditors criticised the practice of the HSE giving new stocks of books to sellers who had a long-term outstanding debt.

Another examination of the Drugs Payment Scheme by the medical card section of the HSE said there was a risk that medication, in addition to that prescribed by the doctor, was reimbursed.

A probe of the medical card scheme said there should be an ongoing review of all medical cards issued to identify dormant cards. These should be followed up to determine the present status of the medical card holder. A random sample of self-assessed medical card renewals should be reviewed continuously.

Irish Independent

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