FINE Gael's spokesperson for health has called for an elective hospital in which consultants are given adequate theatre time to carry out procedures that will help to tackle current waiting lists.
Cork North Central TD Colm Burke said that the elective hospital cannot be a day facility in which in-patients are not accepted for more complicated procedures such as knee replacements.
He was speaking after a scheduled discussion amongst Cabinet in relation to the elective hospital, the location of which is yet to be revealed, was deferred last week.
“Sláintecare are pressing for the elective hospital to be a day facility only but they’re not taking into account that the South Infirmary, for instance, has passed its sell-by date,” he said.
He said that although there are a lot of additions such as theatres and clinics physically built in the hospital, that “it can only continue for a period of time but not continue indefinitely”.
Deputy Burke said that the new hospital is also not going to solve the issues with overcrowding and waiting lists right away as “the design will take 12 months, planning process will take at least another six to eight months and the build then will take at least 12 to 18 months”.
He said that he has been contacted by people who are prepared to design, build and provide a site for the elective hospital on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis.
“It’s still far cheaper than waiting for a Government department to raise the money, it's far cheaper so that you can get it dealt with faster and then you have a combined team in the sense of the whole process,” he said.
Deputy Burke said he raised the use of PPP for hospital facilities at a recent PAC meeting with the head of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) who he said advised that it is “a good time to be doing PPP because people who are doing the financing are looking for investment opportunities and the interest rates are quite low”.
“So you pay back over 25 years and you fix the borrowing rate at 2 or 3%. It's very low on real terms and as the NTMA says it's very easy and we’re now borrowing money at 0.14% so we have over €10 billion or €15 billion borrowed at that rate.
“In 2009, we paid €7.5 billion in interest and this year we’ll pay €4 billion even though we have more money borrowed and next year we will have €3.5 billion in interest and therefore this is an opportunity now to do a major project like this when interest rates are low.
“By having PPP it’s not on the State borrowing because it's design-build and leased back and after 25 years the State takes over the facility,” he said.
Deputy Burke said that the use of PPP for hospital facilities is “something that we should seriously be looking at”.
He said that one of the biggest issues facing Irish hospitals is that consultants are not being given theatre time to carry out their operations.
He said that there are consultants who are lucky to be scheduled half a day’s theatre time in the working week, which he said is worrying some consultants as with so few operations, they may run into difficulty in having the skill set required in their key area.
Deputy Burke said that some consultants are carrying out two operations a week here in Ireland, while they had carried out multiple operations when working elsewhere “because they had access to a theatre”.
“You need to have a consultant to do the operation, you need theatre staff and an anesthetic team and you need to have a bed when that’s all over to put the patient into and if there’s any one of those components missing you cannot operate properly,” he said.
He said that he does not agree with Sláintecare’s view that catering for in-patients in the elective hospital would “clog up the system” and that a clear policy needs to be put in place in relation to the after care of the patient and their recovery period so that another facility is available to those who may need a longer amount of time to recover than what is predicted.