Minister accepts potential for conflicts of interest/moral hazard in procedure outsourcing – Ó Caoláin
During Minister’s questions today, Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD questioned Minister for Health Leo Varadkar over his plans to outsource up to 1,500 inpatient and day case procedures over the next number of weeks.
Speaking after the engagement, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
“I sought details of public hospital referrals to private practice on the same or adjoining facilities and asked the Minister if he sees potential for abuse in such arrangements. I now understand that a notice to tender for the provision of these services was issued recently with a view to contracting service providers this week.
“The Minister has accepted my concerns when he said that ‘there is certainly potential for conflicts of interest’ and ‘also potential for moral hazard because… one sometimes ends up rewarding those who are not performing’
“We all recognise the need to bring down waiting lists, but Minister Varadkar is going about it in the wrong way. Indeed the Minister had previously moved the goalposts on this issue, having changed the target for maximum permissible waiting times to 18 months.
“What he needs to do is to ensure that there are realistic targets; then he needs to focus on recruiting adequate staff to ensure that the all-time record waiting lists are reduced.
“The Minister gave the example of Crumlin hospital lacking theatre space to undertake the large number of scoliosis operations that are awaited and he said that as a result a number of cases have been dealt with in other hospitals. What really needs to happen is that another dedicated theatre for this important surgery is secured, even a temporary fit out pending the construction of the new National Paediatric Hospital.
“Minister Varadkar also stated that ‘people being seen within three months were being seen quicker. So, there were more people being seen quicker but then at the tail-end, there were people being put on the long finger for longer’. This is less to do with limited resources and more to do with poor application of the same resources. The Minister must ensure that all on waiting lists are treated fairly and within an appropriate timescale.”