Healthcare firm pays for hospital worker
A Respiratory technician employed by a commercial healthcare company is working in the sleep clinic of a public hospital because it has been unable to recruit their own staff, it emerged yesterday.
University Hospital Limerick confirmed that the respiratory technician, employed by BOC Ireland, which is providing the service free of charge, is working in its clinic for patients who suffer from sleep apnoea.
Sleep apnoea is a condition which interrupts breathing during sleep leading to complications such as high blood pressure, sleepiness during the day or diabetes. BOC Ireland supplies equipment used in the treatment of the condition.
The spokeswoman for the University of Limerick (UL) Hospitals Group said it provides a sleep apnoea service to patients in the mid west. "In recent years staff running those services retired or left the service and there was a real possibility that the service would need to be discontinued. BOC Ireland, in agreement with the hospital group, agreed to locate trained respiratory technicians within University Hospital Limerick to enable the service to continue for patients whilst the recruitment process was underway to find a permanent member of staff to take up this role," she said.
She said they ran a number of unsuccessful recruitment campaigns but one position remained unfilled.
Therapy costs vary and can be around €50 a month per patient.
She said the respiratory technician carries out diagnostics tests on patients referred by their GP and the respiratory consultant reviews the sleep study results to determine whether medical treatment is required.
"This may result in the patient being prescribed home oxygen. The patient's prescription for home oxygen is sent to the relevant HSE community health office for review by their area medical officer before supply is arranged by community services."
Asked how much equipment BOC Ireland supplies to the patients she said the UL Hospitals Group does not have access to the information. The number of patients referred for ongoing treatment or the cost of these therapies falls "outside our remit," she added. A spokeswoman for BOC Ireland declined to comment and referred all questions to the hospital.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar was contacted last month via an anonymous letter. A department spokesman said a response has only just been received but it is now seeking further information.