The chair of the Oireachtas Health Committee is calling for an audit of private and public hospitals to examine exactly what private patients are being billed for after it emerged that one woman paid €1,175 for a 90-minute visit to a private hospital in Cork.
The bill, following a cataract procedure at the Mater Private Hospital in City Gate, Mahon, Cork, did not include consultant’s or anaesthesiologist fees.
Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer said he “couldn’t accept that costs were so high”. The woman, from Ballincollig, Co Cork, spent approximately 15 minutes in theatre. At no stage did she occupy a bed. The entire visit took 90 minutes.
The woman wrote to Health Minister Dr James Reilly highlighting the high costs of private healthcare. She said the department had thanked her for her letter, saying that the cost of private health care is “receiving attention”.
The woman said her private health insurer, Laya Healthcare, had blamed the high cost on lack of competition in Cork where there are just two private hospitals. The woman said Laya told her things were “slightly different in Dublin” where there is more competition.
Mr Buttimer said he has written to the private health insurers asking them to explain the cost differential between Cork and Dublin.
He said he shared the same view as Dr Reilly, that nowadays, procedures were carried out more quickly and more efficiently, using smarter technology, with many patients no longer required to overnight in hospital. This should be driving costs down, he said. Mr Buttimer said he may seek to have the private health insurers brought back before the Oireachtas Health Committee to explain why they were not reducing costs for the consumer.
In a statement, the Mater Private said included in the costs in this case were “items such as staff costs (nursing, theatre, support, administration, infection control), materials used during the procedure — some of which are expensive single use items (lens implant, catheters, theatre instrument sets) and facilities (theatre, ward)”.
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