HSE tackles children's hospital over delays
THE Health Service Executive (HSE) has challenged one of Dublin's biggest children's hospitals for dragging its heels in dealing with consultants suspected of treating too many private patients.
The HSE wrote to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who is the chairman of Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, about the delay, which, in effect, means that consultants suspected of being in breach of their public contracts are going unchallenged.
Other hospitals have been issuing formal warnings to consultants treating too many private patients since last year. To date, at least 60 consultants have received warning letters demanding that they pay a "financial penalty" into a training fund for exceeding their quota of private patients.
However, it is understood that Our Lady's children's hospital had yet to begin the formal process of sending warning letters when it was contacted by the HSE two months ago.
A HSE spokesman confirmed this weekend that it had written to Our Lady's hospital to "speed up the implementation of the consultant's contract".
The hospital indicated that warning letters were now being issued. "In accordance with the measurement process set out in Consultant Contract 2008, consultants are informed of their public/private ratios," it said.
"Where ratios are outside those set out in the contract, correspondence has been issued to consultants and set periods have been identified within which the issue is to be addressed."
The clash is the latest confrontation between the children's hospital and the HSE. In the past, the hospital has been challenged over lengthy waiting lists for children, which at one point included 100 on a list for heart surgery and 70 for spinal surgery.
Parents and consultants broadly blamed funding shortages for the long waits. Our Lady's was also one of three Dublin children's hospitals found to be under-utilising operating theatres, leaving sick children waiting up to two years for surgery.
A study, leaked to the media last month, found that the under-use of the operating theatres was not due to a lack of money or staff shortages. Instead, it found a range of inefficiencies in managing the facilities.
The three hospitals reviewed were Temple Street, Our Lady's and the National Children's Hospital Tallaght.
Health Minister James Reilly last week said the report "underscores the belief I've held for a long time that lack of organisation and poor management rather than money are at the heart of significant problems within our health service".
In a joint statement, the three hospitals said the review took place in a week where hospitals were struggling to deal with the swine flu crisis, which meant a range of elective procedures were cancelled, with a knock-on effect on use of operating theatres.