Consultant attacks CUH co-location proposal

THE Government’s hospital co-location policy was slated at a public hearing yesterday by a former president of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO).

Consultant geriatrician at Nenagh General Hospital, Dr Christine O’Malley said there is a very real danger that Cork University Hospital (CUH) will become unsustainable if a for-profit private hospital is built on its grounds.

She made her comments in a submission on behalf of the Campaign for a Real Public Health Service during the final day of a Bord Pleanála oral hearing into the Beacon Medical Group’s (BMG) plans to build the controversial 175-bed private hospital on the CUH campus.

Dr O’Malley had prepared a 6,000-word document for the hearing but was told several times to confine herself to planning matters.

She claimed that under co-location, public hospitals would lose the right to charge insurance companies for treating private patients.

And she said there is no guarantee from the Government that this income shortfall would be made up.

She said the commercial needs of the new private hospital may take precedence over the requirements of the existing public hospital.

“Building co-located private hospitals on the grounds of public hospitals has been presented to the public merely as a tax-efficient, capital building programme, whereas it is in fact a fundamental change in the way that hospital care will be provided,” she said.

“Unlike existing Irish private hospitals, the co-located private hospital is intended to be a full-service general hospital, mirroring the case-mix of the public hospital and taking all insured patients from the emergency department. This is new and unlike any existing Irish private hospital.”

She said she could see a situation where private or insured patients were kept in the public hospital because they were too ill, and therefore too expensive for the private hospital to treat.

But under the co-location policy, she said, the public hospital would not be allowed to charge the health insurer for the care. There is a real danger the public hospital could become unsustainable, she said.

Dr O’Malley also suggested that Health Service Executive (HSE) officials overseeing co-location have limited commercial experience and even less experience of the private hospital sector.

However, Tom Finn, the HSE official in charge of co-location, rejected her comments. He said seriously ill patients could not be excluded from the private hospital and the case-mix would be monitored by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).

The hearing closed last night after three days of submissions. Inspector Ozmur Yucel-Finn will now begin drafting her report with a decision from Bord Pleanála expected in November.

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