VHI refuses to cover Bons extension

BON SECOURS, the country’s largest private healthcare provider, has been refused cover by VHI for a planned €80m extension at its Cork hospital.

This brings to three the private healthcare providers refused cover for new facilities in Cork city in the past year. They include:

* Cork Medical Centre (CMC), backed by Sheehan Medical Ltd, which closed in March with the loss of 75 jobs after VHI refused to provide cover for its customers at the facility.

* Mater Private, which had proposed to re-open the failed CMC facility at Citygate, Mahon, creating 250 jobs, by the end of this year. This project looks doomed due to the VHI decision.

The Bon Secours’ need for cover is not as immediate as the Mater Private because the planned extension is not due for completion until 2014. In addition, the expansion will require cover for just 50 additional beds because the other elements of the project involve an upgrade or expansion of existing services that will come in under existing arrangements with VHI.

Yesterday, management at Bon Secours confirmed the project will go ahead, with construction expected to start in January. Planning approval has been received for a new five-storey hospital wing containing two new orthopaedic theatres, a new cancer care centre with radiotherapy and PET/CT scanner, a new intensive care unit, an expansion to the existing cardiac care unit and a new 400-space multi-storey car park.

The redevelopment is due to deliver up to 400 jobs during construction.

The VHI said it had turned down both the Mater and the Bon Secours because there was no need for additional beds in the area. “Furthermore, the prices put forward by the Mater Private Hospital Cork were considered and were found overall not to be competitive,” the VHI said.

Fine Gael senator Colm Burke has complained to the Competition Authority that the VHI stance is discriminatory because it is depriving Cork customers of greater choice.

An O’Callaghan Properties (OCP) spokesperson said they were “monitoring this issue very carefully”. OCP has plans for a private hospital at Lancaster Quay.

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