Wednesday 23 October 2019

Private practice ban 'will have no effect on waiting lists'

  

Sceptical: Orthopaedic surgeon Peter O’Rourke has doubts about the plan to ban private practice in public hospitals. Picture: Declan Doherty
Sceptical: Orthopaedic surgeon Peter O’Rourke has doubts about the plan to ban private practice in public hospitals. Picture: Declan Doherty
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Orthopaedic surgeon Peter O'Rourke is among a dwindling number of hospital consultants who only treat public patients and has no private practice.

However, the medic in Letterkenny Hospital in Co Donegal is sceptical about plans to ban private practice in public hospitals.

"Private patients are not seen in public outpatient clinics and therefore the planned changes will have no effect on outpatient waiting lists," he said.

"The majority of patients admitted to hospitals are emergency cases. Likewise, the majority of private patients admitted to public hospitals are also admitted as emergencies.

"Nobody has figures of what percentage are planned elective cases. I can assure you that in places like Letterkenny, where there are relatively few patients with private insurance, the numbers are small.

"Not all counties have access to private hospitals, as they tend to be located in larger urban areas or larger cities. Doctors working in these smaller hospitals in smaller counties will therefore no longer be able to treat part-private patients. This will make working in these hospitals less attractive.

"Recruitment of consultants and hospitals is at best difficult at present. Significant numbers of consultant-trained doctors are now going directly into the private sector. With this change it is likely that consultants will work for a year or two in the public sector to build a reputation and then move to the private sector.

"This will mean public hospitals, if they are fortunate to be able to recruit, will have a revolving door of consultants coming and going without any long-term continuity of care. Places like Letterkenny where I work, which already have great difficulty in recruitment, will find it next to nigh impossible.

"I do not have a vested interest, as I'm retiring next year. It makes no difference to me other than to worry about who will be in our local hospital to treat me in my dotage.

"These actions are likely to make it impractical for people living outside areas with private hospitals to bother getting private medical insurance."

Irish Independent

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