Hospital consultants who delay signing off private health insurance claims promptly appear to be giving “the two fingers” to the HSE West’s financial controller and the Minister for Health, it was claimed this week.
Cllr Padraig Conneely, the chairperson of the health authority’s regional health forum, was hitting out at the doctors whose inaction means the cash strapped local health service is missing out on vital income.
A number of consultants at UHG/Merlin Park have €5.5 million worth of claims awaiting their signatures this week’s meeting of the HSE’s regional health forum was told.
The total amount outstanding in private health insurance claims for the West/North West Hospitals Group at the end of September was €20,377m, claims awaiting consultants’ signatures amounted to €12.8m. Meanwhile there is €17.8m altogether owed to UHG and Merlin Park from these insurance claims.
City Mayor Cllr Conneely said he was “very disappointed” to learn of these figures on a regular basis.
“It’s ridiculous that €20m is still outstanding for the West/North West Group, €12m is awaiting signatures in this region and €17m is outstanding for UHG and Merlin Park. I’ve raised this issue over a number of years.”
He accused the consultants in question of “not listening, not learning” or “not wanting to know”.
He said these were highly paid professionals who were commanding public salaries of up to €200,000 a year and had private practices in a number of hospitals.
“€5 1/2 million [worth of claims] is sitting on their desks waiting to be signed. They seem to be giving the two fingers to the financial controller and the Minister [for Health].”
He insisted this was “disgraceful conduct” while they “paid lip service” in terms of seeking a better health service for patients. He went on to ask why the outstanding amounts continue to rise.
Tony Canavan, the chief operating officer for the West/North West Hospitals Group, said Cllr Conneely was quite right to say these documents needed to be signed off. He stated while “some progress” is being made more needed to be done.
Cllr Conneely said the forum had been told previously that new regulations are to be brought in by the Department of Health whereby the actual consultant in charge may not always have to sign the documents and the second or third in command could do this. He wondered if any progress had been made regarding this innovation.
Mr Canavan said discussion was ongoing and this system would most likely be the way “to separate this nut”.