UHG head’s concerns about hospital a ‘damning indictment’, says HSE forum chair

Failure by some hospital consultants to send in fee claims is costing ‘financially starved” hospitals

Concerns raised by the general manager of University Hospital Galway that the facility cannot function as a centre of excellence due to financial cutbacks as well as its effects on patient care were a “damning indictment”, the chairman of the HSE West’s regional health forum said this week.

Cllr Padraig Conneely said Bridget Howley who is due to retire after almost 40 years, raised her concerns with HSE chief executive Professor Brendan Drumm in a letter in July.

Addressing a meeting of the forum at Merlin Park Hospital on Tuesday the former city mayor said he had been saying the same thing for the last three years and had been criticised for it.

He asked if Ms Howley’s concerns were not a worry to the HSE.

In a written reply to a question from Cllr Conneely seeking a response to the general manager’s letter, the HSE explained it referred to a “scenario of potential additional savings measures” on top of plans already put in place by the hospital.

“Such specific additional measures have not been implemented. Instead the hospital continues to seek to manage its budget in a way which protects patient services at all times.

“This example demonstrates the normal dialogue that takes place within the HSE and that when service managers raise concern about the potential impact of budget measures due consideration is given to those concerns and to finding alternative ways of balancing budget pressures with service needs.”

Commenting further Dr Sean Conroy, the director of the regional health office HSE West, outlined that Ms Howley’s letter was not a reaction of a manager to an imposed cut but was a reaction to a proposed cut. He said these cuts were not made and the letter was a response to a proposal.

Meanwhile, some hospital consultants who are “not playing ball” by failing to send in their fee claims to private health insurers on time are costing local public hospitals in terms of delayed payments, the meeting of the HSE West’s regional health forum was told this week.

The meeting heard that €9.2 million (outstanding in August ) could not be collected by University College and Merlin Park Hospitals because the consultants had not kept their claims up to date.

Forum chairperson Cllr Padraig Conneely, who raised the issue in this newspaper last week, said then this had come at a time when local public hospitals were “financially starved”.

“Private patients are entitled to a bed in a public hospital and the hospital will then invoice the private health insurers for the cost.”

He says this failure to collect the outstanding amount at a time when “serious cutbacks” are affecting public health care was a major concern.

In a reply to a question posed by the councillor requesting the amount in fees due from private health insurers for services provided by UHG and Merlin Park Hospital, the HSE outlined the main reason for delayed claims is the requirement for hospital charges to be submitted together with the consultants’ fee claim and medical data.

“Some consultants find it difficult to keep their claims up to date and this delays payments to the hospital for private patients.”

Cllr Conneely said this was very disappointing. Addressing his comments to Alan Moran, the HSE West’s hospital network manager he said: “You are saying that some consultants are not playing ball, obviously not a lot are playing ball if you can’t recoup €9 million.”

Mr Moran reiterated some consultants had not submitted their fee claims, they were “so busy they had fallen behind”.

Cllr Conneely alleged this was because they were so busy in their private practices, some were working in three hospitals, he claimed. These were highly paid people, some of whom believed they were “a step above the rest” and were like “peacocks walking around the corridors of hospitals”, he said.


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