Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall TD has welcomed the publication today of the Independent Review Group report into removing private healthcare from public hospitals under the Sláintecare programme for a reformed public health service.

Deputy Shortall chaired the special cross-party Oireachtas Committee which agreed the Sláintecare strategy, a key plank of which is the phased elimination of private care from public hospitals.

Deputy Shortall said:

“I welcome the detailed and extensive report from the Independent Review Group chaired by Dr Donal de Buitléir. This report sets out a pathway for better access to public health care in hospitals and improved equity for all patients, irrespective of ability to pay.

“Cleary, the proposal to remove private practice from the public health service is important building block in implementing Sláintecare’s vision for a properly functioning health service that treats everyone promptly and on the basis of medical need.”

Deputy Shortall added:

“The disentangling of the public and private health systems is not a stand-alone reform. However, combined with improved capacity and access to primary and community services, better access to diagnostics, improved hospital capacity and the addressing of recruitment and retention problems, it will be a major contributor to creating a modern and accessible universal public health service.

“This is a significant report, and it calls on the government to take immediate action to recruit public only consultants with a new attractive contract. The report highlights how this contract not only has to provide for better pay, but also better conditions and career prospects for consultants. The report also significantly calls for more robust monitoring of the existing consultant contract, where there has been evidence of abuse in the past.”

Deputy Shortall said it was disappointing that the review group states that the treatment of private patients in public hospitals should cease after ten years, not five as outlined in Sláintecare.

She added:

“The report states that the current income from private work in public hospitals is €524million a year. Sláintecare proposed that this will be phased out over time. What the report doesn’t do is set against this lost income the significant likely savings, such as: ending the need for the National Treatment Purchase Fund which costs €75m a year; increased public charges which would arise which amounts to €52million; a reduction in the cost of tax relief as more people drop private insurance, currently €130m per year; a reduction in the cost of the Cross-Border Directive, currently at €12m; and significant savings that would arise as result of the reduction in the use of hospital facilities such as diagnostics by private consultants.”

Finally, Deputy Shortall commented that the response of the Minister for Health to today’s report “seems lukewarm so far and lacks any sense of urgency. Minister Harris must provide a full government response as matter of urgency so that no further time or momentum is lost in implementing the important Sláintecare reforms.”

ENDS

26th August 2019