Irish Medical Organisation

IMO warn of €6 Billion black hole if private patients banned from public hospitals

Banning private patients could cause a €6 billion black hole for the public hospital system

Tuesday 27th February 2018.  The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has warned that removing private patients from public hospitals could open up a €6 billion black-hole in the public hospital system over the next decade.

The IMO has made a detailed submission to the Independent Review Group established by the Minister for Health to “consider practical approaches that can be taken to remove private practice from public hospitals” as recommended in the Sláintecare report. 

In the submission, the IMO has argued that the Sláintecare report itself notes that approximately €650m annually flows into the public hospital system from private health insurance companies.  The IMO argues that if a conscious decision is taken to forego that income the health service could find itself taking a  politically inflicted €6bn budgetary hit over ten years. The IMO submission states that given the reluctance of successive Governments to invest in public health service capacity, to choke off this vital funding stream simply makes no practical sense.

The IMO has also challenged the claim that removing private practice from public hospitals will alleviate the capacity crisis that currently bedevil the public hospital system. Private patients, who constitute less than 20% of public hospital discharges in any event, can still exercise their absolute right to be treated in public hospitals. However, they will now be classified as public, as opposed to, private patients. This will do nothing to increase capacity, and will increase demand. 

The IMO submission also warns that removing private patients from public hospitals may also discourage Consultants from signing contracts or even opting to work in the Irish health service. 

The IMO describes the Sláintecare proposals as not fully thought through.

Dr Peadar Gilligan, Consultant Chair said that it was important that the Review Group heard from organisations like the IMO which represent doctors at the coal face.  He noted the criticism that Doctors were regarded as vested interests; “Well let me be very clear, if being a vested interest means being someone who has spent their entire career working in a dysfunctional service, trying to help patients, and all the while developing an expertise about what is practical, equitable and desirable when it comes to healthcare reform then yes I am a vested interest. Like many colleagues I am very aware that  it is Doctors and nurses not politicians and health commentators who will spend a lifetime in the service living with the consequences of poor policy decisions if they are enacted. Political consensus is one thing but optimal delivery of healthcare is not delivered by committee. Now that there is an alleged consensus politically,  real engagement (not paper submissions and cross examinations)  with the stakeholders needs to take place.”

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