Private hospitals could provide the key to the public healthcare crisis with a plan to use private beds, assist with patient tests, and cut waiting lists.
The Private Hospitals Association (PHA) published proposals to help treat public patients quicker.
The plans – if introduced could help address concerns that Ireland has a two-tier health service assisting those who are able to pay at a faster rate than those who have medical cards or cannot afford private healthcare.
Last week shocking figures showed that public patients in Ireland can wait up to 25 times longer for cancer tests – and mortality rates are affected by waiting for treatment.
The group is taking six points to the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar on how to merge the two systems.
The Medical Independent reported that the points are:
• To design a joint public and private sector initiative to tackle waiting lists for both inpatient and outpatient treatments including a focus on diagnostics.
• Move patients more quickly through emergency departments by using all available beds in both the public and private sectors.
• To address the gaps delaying patient treatment by launching a coordinated approach to attracting consultants and other health professionals to work in Ireland.
• To establish a task force to boost co-operation between public and private healthcare systems.
• To introduce a new competitive system for commissioning hospital care by 2018;
• Coordinate planned investment in medical facilities and equipment to avoid duplication, get value and create efficiencies.
Simon Nugent, PHA CEO, said: “We must focus on three things: patients, planning and partnership. If we all plan together, there is great scope for private hospitals to help the Minister for Health and the HSE tackle the challenges they are facing.
“Our members can help in the treatment of many waiting-list patients but we can only make a significant impact if we work in close partnership with the public hospitals system.”
Discussing patients who wait a long time for diagnostic tests, Mr Nugent said: “No patient should need to wait longer than three months for an MRI or an endoscopy. We have the equipment. We have the skilled staff. We should just make a plan and clear that backlog.”
The PHA said it could also assist with ICU and urology care in the private sector.
The PHA said its 19 hospitals across Ireland provide one million bed nights annually, offering care to 400,000 patients. 250,000 procedures take place during this period and 3 million diagnostic tests are carried out.
50 per cent of all heart surgeries and 65 per cent of all spinal surgeries are carried out annually by PHA doctors and the group provides one in ten inpatient psychiatric beds in Ireland.