Mater Private boss wants formal, long-term public bed deal

The head of the Mater Private Healthcare Group has called for a formal arrangement whereby a public hospital would block-book beds on a long-term basis in a private hospital for use when overcrowding occurs.

This would be a more efficient and cost-effective approach to the current “ad-hoc” arrangement that exists between the Mater Private in Cork and Cork University Hospital (CUH), according to CEO John Hurley.

Mr Hurley, a cardiothoracic surgeon, said they had 25 beds that they “could make available to CUH or the Mercy University Hospital (MUH) or whoever needs them” on a 12-month basis because the Mater Private Cork, open since January 2013, is not yet operating at full capacity.

CUH has an arrangement since December 2016 whereby it can transfer patients to the Mater to alleviate overcrowding. During 2017, 20 patients were transferred at a cost of €46,000, a CUH spokesperson said. So far this year, 18 have been transferred.

Mr Hurley said patients transferred were “of moderate acuity”.

He said while they were “very happy to help CUH”, he believed proper planning, rather than the “extremely short notice” of a phonecall on the morning of the transfer would “probably give better value for money for all the stakeholders, including the patients”.

“When it’s ad hoc, staff have to be called in at short notice, there is overtime involved.”

Mr Hurley said the success of a planned approach had been proven when Cork University Maternity Hospital made “seamless” use of the Mater facilities to tackle gynaecology waiting lists last year.

Mr Hurley’s comments are in the context of Health Minister Simon Harris admitting the public system needs 2,500 beds over the next decade.

“They have a problem that will take years to fix. We have the capacity in the private sector. It’s enabling action rather than permanent decanting of public patients to private hospitals,” he said.

However the Irish Medical Organisation warned earlier this week that transferring patients to private facilities was not a sustainable solution to A&E overcrowding: that it continued “a policy of investing.. into the private system with no corresponding investment in our public system”.

Trolley figures for the first week of 2018 hit a record high. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation recorded 2,408 on trolleys, up 10% on the same period in 2017.

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