Hospital medical board would be better off getting their consultant buddies to free up millions owed

Cllr Padraig Conneely

Cllr Padraig Conneely

The chairperson of the HSE West’s regional health forum has called on the medical board of Galway University Hospitals (GUH ) to address the issue of consultants who are costing the hospitals millions of euro by failing to sign off private health insurance claims promptly.

Cllr Padraig Conneely said this ongoing problem, involving a number of consultants, has been raised on numerous occasions at local forum meetings.

Both city public hospitals are owed about €18 million from private health insurance companies because the HSE West has difficulty getting the consultants to sign the paperwork necessary to complete the claim process. Some €6.5m of the total amount is outstanding for more than a year.

Cllr Conneely was responding to a letter published in this newspaper last week from the medical board of the hospitals, signed by Professor Kieran Daly, the chairperson of the medical board, Professor Tim O’Brien of the Department of Medicine, and Professor Michael Kerin of the Department of Surgery.

It outlined that GUH reduced expenditure by more than €35 million over the past two years, staff levels fell by 270 yet activity has been maintained with the highest level of inpatient discharges in the country.

The letter stated that GUH is the busiest single hospital site in the country seeing more inpatients, outpatients and emergencies than any other hospital. This results in significant pressure, with problems particularly in the emergency department.

“We appreciate the resulting difficulties being experienced by our patients at present and are committed to working with management structures to improve this situation.

“The medical board fully supports the current management group under the direction of Dr David O’Keeffe and the efficient changes that have been put in place despite ongoing difficult financial circumstances in the health service.”

Referring to the medical board’s comment about the “ongoing difficult financial circumstances in the health service”, Cllr Conneely said that €18m is owing to UHG and Merlin Park Hospitals from private health insurance companies, with €6m outstanding for more than 12 months.

“The reason given by the HSE executive for this outstanding sum is because some consultants at UHG and Merlin Park Hospital have not ‘signed off’ on the necessary paperwork to allow the hospitals to recoup the outstanding payment from the private health insurance companies.

“If Professor Daly and the medical board of UHG and Merlin Park could address this issue with their consultant colleagues the €18m outstanding would go a long way to ease the financial difficulties of both hospitals and it might help secure a bed for the 94-year-old lady who spent 51 hours on a trolley at UHG last week.”

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