Patients could be seen faster in public system than private - surgeon
Some waiting-list patients in need of hip replacements and other orthopaedic procedures who are being offered free treatment in a private hospital could be treated more quickly if they stayed in the public system, a surgeon has warned.
Peter O'Rourke, an orthopaedic surgeon in Letterkenny Hospital, said some of his patients have been offered the operation in a private hospital in Dublin under the National Treatment Purchase Fund. The NTPF has €75m to reduce public waiting lists.
He said they could be waiting up to three months to have the operation in the private hospital but he could operate on them more quickly.
Mr O'Rourke told the Irish Independent: "I recently got a list of my patients who were to be offered outsourcing from Letterkenny to a private hospital in Dublin and was shocked by the large numbers.
"Although I had a large waiting list, it has reduced significantly and my waiting time as a result is shorter.
"It now transpires that the NTPF are outsourcing patients who have been on the waiting list for more than three months," he said.
"In my case, some of these patients are currently waiting for investigations and others have already been assessed for surgery in the coming four to six weeks.
"When a patient is referred to a private hospital by the NTPF, the process takes roughly three months - this means that the patient might in fact wait longer for the surgery than if they stayed in the public system."
Mr O'Rourke, who only treats public patients and has no private practice, said they also have to travel to Dublin for the surgery and follow-up. In addition, any complications must be dealt with by the treating hospital. His patients will not be taking up the private offer.
"The private hospital sector constantly lobbies the Government regarding their availability. This latest stupidity by the Government shows a lack of support for the public health service, despite the fact that they have touted Slaintecare as the solution," he said.
"The only result of this latest example of the stupidity is that little if any surgery will be carried out in public hospitals where, it must be remembered, the next generation of surgeons are trained."
The NTPF did not respond to a request for comment.