Written Answers. - Hospital Services.

Michael Noonan

Question:

532 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the continuing breakdowns in equipment at the radiotherapy unit at Cork University Hospital is causing the treatment prescribed for patients to be frequently interrupted; and the steps, if any, he will take to remedy the situation. [28429/98]

I am aware of recent interruptions in service at the radiotherapy department of Cork University Hospital due to the need for repairs to the linear accelerator. When this matter was brought to my attention I asked my officials to meet as a matter of urgency with management and clinical staff at Cork University Hospital to discuss the resolution of these difficulties.

I have now been advised by the Southern Health Board that the equipment in question is now in service. The health board has also put proposals to me to ensure the maintenance of services for patients undergoing radiotherapy in the future. I am considering these proposals at present and hope to reach a decision on the matter shortly.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

533 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children if a PRSI contributor can engage a consultant privately for non-emergency care and then enter a public bed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28430/98]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

534 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children if a consultant is entitled to charge fees to a non-emergency patient in a pub lic bed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28431/98]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

535 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children if a patient is obliged to pay if a consultant raises a bill for non-emergency treatment in a public bed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28432/98]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

536 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children if a consultant's bill for non-emergency treatment for an adult in a public bed is sent to the VHI or if the patient has to pay in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28433/98]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 533, 534, 535 and 536 together.

Under the Health Services (In-Patient) Regulations 1991, a consultant's private patients must ordinarily be accommodated in private or semi-private beds, while consultant's public patients must ordinarily be accommodated in public beds. However, a patient being admitted to hospital as an emergency admission shall be accommodated in whatever bed is available.

Under the Health (In-Patient Charges) Regulations, 1987, as amended by the Health (In-Patient Charges) (Amendment) Regulations, 1997, a person is liable for a statutory charge unless otherwise exempt, in respect of in-patient public hospital services. The current charge of £25 in respect of each day during which a person is maintained up to a maximum of £250, is applicable to both public and private patients. In addition, private and semi-private maintenance charges are applicable to private patients accommodated in designated private beds.

The Health (Amendment) Act, 1991 removed the entitlement to combine public and private elements of in-patient care at the same time. The position now is that every patient is entitled to full public hospital services including public accommodation and public consultant care. Alternatively one can opt to be the private patient of both the consultant and the hospital. Where a patient chooses to be a private patient, then he/she is liable for consultant fees even when, for reasons of lack of availability of a private bed, he/she has to, as an emergency admission, occupy a public bed.