Health service shortcomings: Public beds for public patients

If you want to know what is wrong with our health service, don’t ask Simon Harris or the HSE. 

Instead, have a word with John Patrick Harrington. He is a 90-year-old man from Bantry in West Cork and is the primary carer for his blind wife.

Mr Harrington has just returned from Belfast where he underwent eye surgery for cataracts, having been told he would have to wait four years for a similar operation south of the border as a public patient.

Private patients can be seen within a month and get surgery within two months, thanks in large part to the crazy system of allowing hospital consultants to use public hospitals for private practice.

Little wonder that an RTÉ investigation revealed that two HSE consultants were paid around €30,000 for public work that they did not do. That would not be tolerated in the case of nurses or other HSE staff so why should consultants get away with such appalling behaviour?

Neither would it be tolerated in other endeavours. If, for instance, a contractor was paid in advance to fix a roof and absconded with the job half done, he could be sued or even prosecuted.

Fianna Fáil’s health spokesperson Billy Kelleher is correct when he says the current system gives public hospitals “a perverse incentive” to put public patients on waiting lists and private patients in beds. It is time to end it once and for all.


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