One in 10 consultants at public hospitals 'treating too many private patients'
Almost one in 10 hospital consultants is treating more fee-paying patients than they should, according to a new report.
Doctors in Cork University Hospital, where 53 consultants breached limits, and the nearby Mercy Hospital, in which 30 specialists were non-compliant, top the list.
Overall, around 236 of 2,443 hospital consultants are not obeying their private-patient quota.
The HSE report said that, in the main, the breaches are "outside the control" of the doctors.
Under their contract the doctors, who are allowed to treat private patients, should not exceed limits of 20pc or 30pc.
However, the report said some of the reason for the infringement of limits is that they are faced with a higher volume of private patients who are coming through A&E and have to be admitted.
Liam Woods, the HSE's head of acute hospitals, said in some specialties the "demographics of emergency admissions" are beyond the control of the consultant who is on call and asked to treat them.
In other cases, the breaches are linked to the nature of the service they provide.
The report also looked at work plans and found 2pc of the doctors were not compliant.
These work plans for the treatment of public patients may also fail to proceed as they should because a doctor does not have the access to enough beds or operating theatre time.
Mr Woods said that as the reporting process becomes embedded over the coming months, more "robust data and reasons for non-compliance will emerge".
The report found the breaches related to private work in public hospitals.
It found no evidence of non-compliance in the case of consultants who are allowed to treat fee-paying patients in private hospitals also.
Under Sláintecare, it is proposed to phase out private practice in public hospitals and a report on how this will be done is currently under consideration.
It will mean that the work contract with hospital consultants, who can treat public and private patients, would have to be re-negotiated.
It was confirmed this week that the new €1.7bn National Children's Hospital will have a section with its own internal entrance to eight private consultation rooms.
The private section also includes a reception area, a breastfeeding room, a play area and utility rooms.
A spokeswoman for Children's Health Ireland said the new hospital is obliged to provide the private facilities as part of the consultants contract. Private outpatient clinics may be held on the public hospital campus, but these clinics must be done outside the hours the consultant is contracted to treat public patients.