MASKEY HITS OUT AT “CONTINUING CREEPING PRIVATISATION” OF THE HEALTH SERVICE
South Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has hit out at what he calls the continuing 'creeping privatisation' of the Health Service.
Mr Maskey was speaking as he expressed his shock disbelief that the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety have spent approximately £19.4 million treating orthopaedic patients within the private sector, including over 12,000 patients in the Belfast Trust area, between 2006 to 2008. As this money was being spent it was confirmed that the Department intends to close beds in at the orthopaedic ward at South Belfast's Musgrave Park Hospital.
The South Belfast MLA said,
"The Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey, has revealed that, between 2006 and 2008, in Belfast12,368 orthopaedic patients have been referred to the private sector for treatment by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. This cost of such private treatment throughout the North in the same time period amounts to around £19.4 million.
"This amounts to nothing more than the continuing creeping privatisation of the Health Service here. It is particularly shocking that this amount of money is being spent treating orthopaedic patients within the private sector at a time when the Minister has confirmed that he is to close orthopaedic beds at Musgrave Park Hospital".
"On the one hand the department is closing down what amounts to a whole ward used for orthopaedic treatment at Musgrave Park hospital, while on the other hand they are quite happy to spend around £19.4m in referring over 12,000 patients for treatment by the private sector.
"This is a shocking situation and I am sure than many people will share my view that this money could be better spent by being invested in improving public sector treatment rather than furthering a privatisation agenda. The Minister must explain his Departments position on this and I am sure that the public and those who work within the Health sector will want to be reassured that the Minister has a strategy to ensure that this situation is reversed to the extend that patients will no longer be referred to the private sector for treatment".
note to editor: Questions to Michael McGimpsey and the responses received:
* AQW 2344/09 Mr A Maskey
(SF - South Belfast) To ask the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to detail the number of Health Service patients referred to private health care in order to meet the Department's waiting time targets for orthopaedic patients. 11/11/2008
In the 2006/07 and 2007/08 years the Belfast Trust and the Western Trust referred a total of 12368 and 2736 orthopaedic patients respectively to the independent sector for inpatient, daycase or outpatient services. The Northern, Southern and South Eastern Trusts did not refer any orthopaedic patients to the independent sector during this time.
* We received this further answer to a written question on 15th December 2008:
Alex Maskey: To ask the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety pursuant to the answer to AQW 2344/09, to detail the total cost incurred by the referral of 12,368 orthopaedic patients to the independent sector for treatment by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust; and the cost incurred by the referral of 2,736 orthopaedic patients to the independent sector for treatment by the Western Health and Social Care Trust.
Michael McGimpsey: I am advised that a total of approximately £7.6 million in 2006/2007 and £11.8 million in 2007/2008 has been paid to the independent sector for orthopaedic treatments procured as part of the waiting initiatives. However, it should be noted that these figures include the cost of a small number of treatments provided in 2005/06 and exclude some costs for 2007/08 for which invoices have not yet been received.
To meet current access targets it has been necessary to use the independent sector to supplement health service capacity to deliver the reductions in waiting times seen over the last few years.