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Legal issue over processing cancer tests from private patients resolved



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A legal blockage that prevented a number of biopsies from patients with suspected cervical or skin cancer in private hospitals from being tested has been lifted following a reversal of policy by the HSE.

The State Claims Agency (SCA), which provides legal cover, told a number of private consultants who are doing pro bono work for their patients that biopsies taken from patients could not be analysed in their private hospital.

The HSE has taken over private hospitals as part of its response to the coronavirus crisis, but not all consultants have agreed to take up a temporary work contract.

The SCA wrote to the consultants saying the State would instruct histopathologists to not process biopsies sent in by some doctors.

It is understood that a change in policy was agreed yesterday and this will allow the tests to proceed as long as the doctor has the approval of their private hospital.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said the clinical indemnity scheme will provide cover for consultants who have signed Type A contract - where they only treat public patients - regarding the examination of pathology slides or samples, regardless of where the referral comes from.

"In terms of continuity of care, arrangements have been put in place to ensure that those patients who were scheduled for treatment or in ongoing treatment have appropriate access to care.

"This may include the option for the patient to transfer to another consultant in the hospital, or to another hospital. The treating consultant may also see the patient on a pro bono basis in the private hospital," she said.

Earlier, Fianna Fáil spokesperson on health Stephen Donnelly asked for the issue to be resolved, and he said patients should not be caught in the wrangle between the HSE and private consultants who have not signed a temporary HSE work contract.

Irish Independent