Hospital faces €1.75m waiting list fine

A major hospital is facing a fine of up to €1.75m over its repeated failure to cut the length of time patients have to wait for treatment.

The unnamed facility is set to be hit with the fine under controversial plans introduced by the Department of Health’s special delivery unit (SDU).

Under the SDU initiative, revealed earlier this year, hospitals will be fined €25,000 for every month a patient is waiting more than 12 months for any planned inpatient procedure. The cut-off point will drop to nine months from September.

The move, which began last month, was introduced as part of the SDU’s stated aim of tackling Ireland’s 200,000-person hospital waiting lists.

Speaking at the first day of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation conference, SDU chief operating officer Tony O’Brien said “there is one institution” facing a significant fine.

Mr O’Brien declined to name the facility or the potential cost, other than to say “a number” of patients are involved and the SDU is “in fairly significant discussions with [the hospital] over the penalty that will be imposed”.

However, according to the HSE’s records, the only facilities which had more than 50 people waiting over a year for treatment at the end of March were Cork University Hospital, the Mater, and Beaumont.

A Beaumont spokesperson confirmed the hospital is not facing the fine, stating that the near-80 people waiting over a year reported in March has been addressed.

The Mater and CUH did not respond to requests for comment. The Mater had more than 50 patients on its books waiting more than a year in March, and the CUH has 69.

If the SDU is to fine the facility the full amount for the infringement, the financial penalty is likely to be between €1.25m and €1.75m — a cost Mr O’Brien said is being negotiated. “There is one institution we’re in fairly significant discussions with over the penalty that will be imposed on them.”

Hiding patients claims denied

One of the Department of Health’s most senior officials has denied hospitals are effectively hiding trolley patients in other wards to make their overcrowding problem seem better.

Special Delivery Unit chief operating officer, Tony O’Brien, rejected the claim last night despite the repeated insistence from doctors and nurses that the situation was taking place.

Asked to comment on concerns the full capacity protocol — which involves a small number of trolley patients being put in other wards in the event of an emergency — is being used to massage emergency department rates, the senior official claimed it was not possible.


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