Private firm to run hospitals
Two facilities earmarked for management shake-up
A PRIVATE company is to be drafted in to run a number of the country's public hospitals for 15 months in a radical overhaul of management.
The public hospitals in the west, including University College Hospital in Galway and Limerick Regional Hospital, both of which are beset by long waiting lists and overcrowding, are to be effectively taken over for more than a year by outside management consultants. During that time they will attempt to increase efficiencies, cut waiting times and reduce budget overruns.
It is the first time that the running of public hospitals has been given over to private hands and is a clear vote of no confidence in existing public service managers.
A tender process to recruit the outside managers is almost complete and the new arrangements are expected to be in place for several months until the hospitals are overhauled. While further details have yet to emerge, the new consultants will manage the running of the hospitals as well as their multi-million euro budgets.
The two hospitals were chosen because of ongoing problems with overcrowding and yesterday there were 27 patients languishing on trolleys in Limerick Regional Hospital and 34 waiting for a bed at University College Hospital in Galway (UCHG).
The private managers will look after the day-to-day running of the two major hospitals in the HSE West and also oversee the other hospitals in the region, including Merlin Park Hospital in Galway, Roscommon Hospital, Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe and Ennis Hospital.
Five companies are believed to be competing for the contract to manage the hospitals with a deal expected to be signed in the coming weeks.
The outside managers will report to HSE Regional Director John Hennessy and Health Minister James Reilly.
Galway Fine Gael TD Brian Walsh confirmed to the Irish Independent that the move is under way and will be in effect very shortly.
"It will be the the most significant reform of the acute hospital sector in Ireland since the inception of the HSE," he said.
However, the IMPACT trade union warned last night that the major move would "effectively privatise hospital services in the western region by stealth".
The union, which represents clerical, administrative and management staff in the region, said the process of tendering for the management contract was an attempt to bypass the moratorium on public service recruitment and public service pay guidelines.