HSE ultimatum on private practice

The HSE is threatening to levy financial penalties on Dublin's St Vincent's Hospital in a row over consultants' private practice rights.

The health executive wants St Vincent's to stop consultants who it says are only entitled to private practice in the public hospital from treating private patients in its adjacent private hospital as well.

However, St Vincent's claims these consultants are entitled to private practice in the adjacent hospital.

The Sunday Business Post has reported that the HSE is threatening the south Dublin hospital with capital and revenue sanctions unless it stops consultants with a 'category B' contract from working in the private hospital.

Normally, consultants on this type of contract can only carry out private practice in the public hospital to which they are attached, and cannot engage in 'off-site' private work.

The HSE claims that by working in St Vincent's private hospital, some consultants attached to St Vincent's public hospital are in breach of their contract terms.

However, the St Vincent's Healthcare group, which runs both St Vincent's private and public hospitals, claims that as both hospitals are on the same campus and have the same management, consultants are legally entitled to work in both institutions.

The HSE says dozens of consultants with category B contracts currently work in St Vincent's Private Hospital.It claims it was not aware until recently of the full extent of private hospital practice by St Vincent's public hospital consultants.

The withdrawal of these consultants from the private hospital could have a serious effect on services there, according to sources.

Speaking on RTE, HSE Director General Tony O'Brien said the taxpayer was paying the salaries of a large number of consultants on the understanding they would be doing all of their work in a public hospital.

He said at St Vincent's there was a private hospital 'which is effectively being run on the back of the public hospital' through consultants whose salaries are paid by the taxpayer', and that seemed inappropriate.

St Vincent's Healthcare Group Chairman Prof Noel Whelan told Mr O'Brien today that the Board of St Vincent's Healthcare Group disagreed with the HSE's interpretation of the consultants' contract 'based on the opinion of its legal advisors'. 

"Given the seriousness of this issue, not least for patient care, the board is now seeking immediate legal advice on what action should be taken and will revert to you on the matter as soon as possible," Prof Whelan told Mr O'Brien.

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[Posted: Mon 31/03/2014]


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