Róisín Shortall TD, co-leader of the Social Democrats, called the revelations in tonight’s Prime Time Investigates programme a ‘national scandal’. The programme revealed in the starkest terms how public patients waiting to see consultants in State-funded hospitals face unnecessary delays, pain and suffering.
Ms Shortall said:
“As alarming as the programme’s findings are they will come as no surprise to anyone who has studied the accelerating collapse of our vital public health service.
A significant minority of consultants are gaming the system, maximising the time they spend treating private patients in public hospitals or working in private clinics, all the while being paid a very good salary from the public purse.
The unaccountable and uncontrolled mix of private and public is toxic to the health system, and especially toxic to patients on the public health service waiting lists, where more than 685,000 people now languish.
The new system introduced with the 2008 consultants contract has failed the health service and failed people needing basic health care. Nobody within the health service is policing the publicly funded consultants who are supposed to be spending 80% of their time working with public patients and a maximum of 20% on private patients, as the Prime Time programme revealed.
The perverse incentive introduced by the last government to have public hospitals maximise private income has compounded the situation, and in effect has created a perfect storm where public hospitals are maximising income and a significant minority of consultants are maximising profit over the needs of public patients.
Vested interests have strangled our health system for far too long. It is imperative that we grasp the opportunity now to change that.”
Deputy Shortall, who chaired the Oireachatas Committee on the Future of Healthcare continued:
“The Sláintecare 10-year blueprint for a radically reformed health service, developed by a cross party Oireachtas committee, offers the once in a generation chance to build a fit-for-purpose health system. The Government must display the willingness and the courage to take on the vested interests that are running amok within the health service and prioritise the implementation of Sláintecare.
The Government has known about this scandal for several years. The Taoiseach himself would have been aware of these practices as a doctor. He was also told all about it by the HSE when he was Minister for Health. Unfortunately, neither he nor the current Minister have displayed the courage or political will to tackle it.
RTE’s expose should act as a wake-up call for them to take urgent action.”