Irish Medical Organisation criticises Minister for Health over comments about public hospitals
Friday 6th November 2015. The Irish Medical Organisation has strongly criticised the Minister for Health for suggesting that private companies might be given responsibility to run public hospitals in certain circumstances. The comments were made by Minister Varadkar at a speech to the Institute of Chartered Accountants and are reported in the media today.
Speaking in response, Dr. Ray Walley, President of the IMO, said that the suggestion by the Minister that private companies might be given responsibility to run public hospitals which are underperforming was an attempt by the Minister and the Government to avoid responsibility for the consequences of years of austerity in the health services.
“In the week that’s in it, for the Minister to be discussing profit focussed businesses to run our hospitals is grossly insensitive and ill conceived. This policy will downgrade public service and pave the way for privatisation of our essential health services“
Dr Walley said “Such a policy has been a disaster in other countries and we only have to look across the water at the UK to see the consequences of this kind of initiative. In the US corporate medicine has led to more expensive care that is less efficient with poorer overall outcomes.”
He said; “the Minister seems to think that responsibility for underperforming hospitals is performance and management related rather than the inevitable consequence of years of austerity. The cuts imposed by this Government have forced hospitals to operate with both hands tied behind their backs and now the Minister is saying that their performance isn’t good enough.”
Dr. Walley warned that the growing “corporatisation” of health services in Ireland was a huge threat which would fundamentally alter the way health care was managed across the country.
He said; “We believe that passing our public hospitals over to the private sector would be a bad step for patient care and would encourage a profit first approach to health services for our most vulnerable citizens.”
Dr. Walley warned that the consequences of such a move could be serious for the quality of patient care in the relevant hospitals; “For example under such conditions doctors may be placed under pressure to admit patients or to refer patients for particular procedures that are more profitable. Worse again doctors may be placed under pressure to discharge patients early to meet activity levels and reduce their length of stay. The risk of readmission and even death in these cases is high particularly when our community care services are so massively under-resourced. The professional autonomy of doctors is at risk in such a system.”