SOME hospital consultants are still having to be paid "top-up" payments to try to reduce public waiting lists under the two-tier health system.
The doctors, who already earn state salaries, were paid around €150 to see some patients for an outpatient appointment – while the payment was up to €700 if surgery was involved.
The payments were made as part of the HSE's decision to outsource nearly 30,000 appointments for patients on public waiting lists, paying for them to be seen in private facilities or in extra clinics in public hospitals.
Some of the patients were sent to the Blackrock Clinic and the Mater Private in Dublin. They were also outsourced to the Galway clinic and the Hermitage clinic. The additional appointments were paid for because the public patients would not have been seen as part of the normal waiting list system.
The HSE told the Irish Independent it outsourced 23,037 outpatient appointments and 4,578 inpatient treatments last year to bring down waiting times.
The figures come as Health Minister James Reilly said the White Paper on universal health insurance, due to begin in 2019, was aimed at bringing in a one-tier regime, which would end the "inefficient" system.
The new system has yet to be costed.
He said there would be plenty of time to discuss concerns raised by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Finance about the cost of proposals for universal healthcare insurance, which went to the Cabinet subcommittee on health yesterday.
"I think there's no doubt that there is always going to be concern, particularly in Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure, around the cost of any initiative but I'm very pleased to say that we're bringing this to the health committee of Cabinet and we're going to discuss it and then we'll have ample opportunity in time over the following months to address all the issues and concerns that are raised."
He insisted the proposed one-tier system should not cost more than the two-tier public and private regime.
"Bear in mind how inefficient our current system is. Bear in mind that all of this is leading to the great reform of universal health insurance, that's the key goal."