Tuesday, 10 February 2004

Ceisteanna (252, 253)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

328 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the use of resources in State and public hospitals by hospital consultants who conduct the business of their private practice; his views on whether this amounts to ethical conduct; if it is his view that enforcing properly accountable use of public funds might cut costs that could be better used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3598/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Health and Children)

The provision of private care in public acute hospitals has been a long standing feature of the Irish health care system. The White Paper on Private Health Insurance 1999 sets out the advantages of allowing private practice on public hospital sites, as follows. It helps to ensure that medical and other staff of the highest calibre continue to be attracted into and retained in the public service. It promotes the efficient use of consultant's time by having public and private patients on the one site, it represents an additional income stream to the public hospital system, and it allows patients to avail of private health care when admitted as emergencies to public hospitals.

The consultants' common contract includes a provision to allow consultants treat private patients in public hospitals. Beds in public hospitals are designated public or private. On average, 20% of the beds in public hospitals are designated as private beds. The Government's health strategy, Quality and Fairness, contains a commitment to improve access to hospital services for public patients. This policy objective will be addressed through a series of integrated measures including increased capacity for public patients, use of the national treatment purchase fund to reduce waiting times for public patient, equity for public patients in a revised contract for consultants and clarification in relation to the rules governing access to public beds.

I am committed to ensuring that private practice within public hospitals will not be at the expense of fair access for public patients and I can assure the House that in the context of the on-going health reform programme every opportunity will be taken to reinforce the application of this principle in the health system.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

329 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 741 of 27 January 2004, the plans his Department has to fund residential services for persons suffering from Alzheimer's disease in County Roscommon; the specialist residential services available to such patients in County Roscommon and the complement of beds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3603/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Roscommon area is a matter for the Western Health Board in the first instance. My Department has been informed by the Western Health Board that people suffering from Alzheimer's disease in County Roscommon are currently catered for in the Sacred Heart Hospital, Roscommon, in community nursing units in Boyle and Castlerea and in Aras Naomh Chaolain, Castlerea. The board has further stated that it has established a project team to prepare a brief for the development of a 12 bed unit within Our Lady's Unit in the Sacred Heart Hospital, Roscommon for people suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Following preparation of the project brief the board has stated that it will be seeking approval from my Department to appoint a design team for this project.