Thursday 22 February 2018

More than 100 doctors face audit over their private hospital work

Simon Harris Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Simon Harris Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Eilish O'Regan and Kevin Doyle

More than 100 hospital consultants employed by St Vincent's Hospital, who are also working in the adjacent private hospital, are expected to be part of a private practice audit.

The HSE is sending in independent auditors from Deloitte to investigate if these doctors are breaching contracts by also working in the private hospital.

They make up around half the consultants who are working in the private hospital.

The audit is to start shortly as efforts also get underway to secure ownership of the new national maternity hospital for the HSE, from the Sisters of Charity, when it will be built on the St Vincent's campus.

Read More: Why are the doctors under scrutiny?

It was learned yesterday that Department of Health and HSE officials are to meet this week with the boards of St Vincent's Healthcare Group and the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street.

The officials are to discuss various options to secure ownership, including leasing the hospital site.

Health Minister Simon Harris is to meet with the boards face to face next week and has set the end of the month as a deadline to come up with a new ownership proposal.

Read More: Abolition of health fees 'would cost households €4,000'

The audit comes despite a warning by the HSE that it would impose financial penalties on St Vincent's Hospital unless the issue of consultants working in the private hospital was sorted out.

The consultants earn a HSE-funded salary of around €168,000 for treating public patients and then top up their income with private practice.

If their services must be withdrawn from the private hospital it would have major implications for the care it can give.

Meanwhile, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar, who intervened in the row over control of the maternity hospital between St Vincent's and Holles Street, said yesterday he was struck by the number of people who have contacted him through his constituency office who have a concern about a religious order owning a new public hospital.

"I think the most important thing is that the hospital is built. St Vincent's is the only place that it can be collocated to.

"That's what's best for women and will result in much better outcomes for infants.

"The second most important thing is that the hospital should have full clinical independence and that all procedures that are legal in the State are legal there. We have an assurance that is the case.

"But I have been struck by the amount of people who have contacted me through my constituency office who have a concern about a religious order owning a new public hospital," he said.

"I don't think we can ignore that as a government.

"I'd prefer not to speculate on the timeframe for divestment but I do think that the Government has heard loud and clear the message from the public that they no longer believe in the 21st century that religious orders should own hospitals."

Meanwhile, the order of Sisters of Charity is set to clear the €5m that it is due to pay to the redress board for victims of institutional abuse, Education Minister Richard Bruton has confirmed.

This will be done by not claiming around €3m due in legal costs.

The congregation in question offered a cash contribution of €5m, of which €2m has been paid.

"In 2012 the congregation advised that it had decided to waive its claim for legal costs from the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse and to offset this claim against the remaining cash contribution of €3m," he said in response to Fianna Fáil health spokesman, Billy Kelleher.

"The then-government agreed to reckon this set-off as a contribution towards the redress response."

Irish Independent

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