Inefficient hospitals hit by €6.4m budget fines

HOSPITALS found guilty of bad management and keeping patients in beds too long have been hit with fines totalling €6.4 million.

Dublin’s leading hospitals, including

Tallaght, the Mater, St James’, St Vincent’s and James Connolly Memorial have been penalised to the tune of €2.68m, with

Tallaght again topping the loser’s list. More than 1.5m will be slashed from its budget in 2003, up 250,000 on last year.

Other hospitals to be penalised include Cork’s Mercy Hospital, Cork, St Columcille’s, Dublin and Tullamore. The money will be re-allocated to more efficient hospitals under a system aimed at making hospitals stick to budget.

However, Fine Gael’s Health spokeswoman, Olivia Mitchell said the practice of penalising hospitals just made matters worse.

“Take Tallaght for instance, by cutting back on its budget, it will only create further inefficiencies, it’s a vicious circle. I genuinely believe that management of hospitals should be contracted out, not kept under Government control. That way you could bring the market benefits to the health service,” she said.

The Irish Hospital Consultant’s Association (IHCA) said the system of awarding some hospitals at the expense of others was questionable.

“We would always be cautious of tying funding to length of stay. Some hospitals can be more disadvantaged than others in terms of not being able to release patients immediately because of a lack of step-down facilities. This is not the hospital’s fault.” Chairman of the Irish Patients Association, Stephen McMahon said there were advantages to the system because it facilitated the collection of epidemiological data, allowing comparisons between treatment here and abroad.

But he said he was concerned that the efficiency data was compiled by health professionals and without reference to patients.

“My understanding is that it is done by accountants and statisticians and clinicians, with no patient representation. Our hope would be that as part of the ongoing review of the health boards, that patients would be included,” he said. Beaumont, Limerick Regional, Waterford Regional and Cavan Hospitals were all rewarded this year, having being penalised last year. However, the Mater, St Vincent’s, Navan and Portlaoise had a reversal of fortune and were penalised this year.

The Department of Health defended the system saying it was an internationally recognised means of allocating funding.

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