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€115m-a-month private hospitals deal 'very poor value for money', committee to hear

The state's €115m-a-month deal with private hospitals represents "very poor value for money", an Oireachtas committee will hear today.

The Special Committee on Covid-19 Response is due to hear from both the Irish Hospital Consultants Association and the HSE today on the deal, which the government announced on Friday will end this month.

The IHCA, a representative body for consultants across the health service, says that the deal now represents a poor use of money.

"The test of time has confirmed that the private hospital agreement, which is costing around €115million per month, represents very poor value for money from patient care and taxpayer perspectives.

"The experience is that of very low private hospital bed capacity occupancy at around one third on average and low utilisation of theatre and other ancillary facilities.

"The fact that patient access to hospital care is deteriorating at a time when the State is now paying €115 million per month for under-utilised private hospitals defies logic."

The association will also warn that the use of the facilities is causing longer waiting lists for non-Covid patients and delaying urgently needed care.

"Furthermore, the private hospital contract is prohibiting the provision of urgent care required by patients with non-COVID illnesses. This is leading to the accumulation on waiting lists of a large number of patients who require urgent care. There is now the additional risk that these patients will deteriorate clinically and will increasingly evolve into emergency cases if they are not treated without delay. All patients deserve timely access to high-quality care."

The committee will also hear from Mr Liam Woods, the national director of acute operations with the HSE, who will present the HSE's clinical and capacity concerns when entering into the deal, saying that the "basic shortfall in acute hospital capacity identified by the Department of Health Capacity Review in 2018 has now been exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19".