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Fitness & Health

21st Nov 2017

RTÉ documentary reveals two HSE consultants were paid nearly €30,000 for work they didn’t do

The revelations are pretty damning.

Conor Heneghan


The documentary found that HSE consultants are doing private work that impacts on their hours at public hospitals, despite being paid full-time salaries.

Two HSE consultants were paid amounts estimated to be in the region of €30,000 for work that they did not do, according to an RTÉ Investigates documentary broadcast on Tuesday night.

One consultant observed over eight weeks as part of the documentary was working less than 13 hours per week on average in the public system, despite being contracted to work 37 hours per week.

Instead of working eight weeks, the consultant in question worked the equivalent of just three weeks; based on HSE salary scales, over the eight weeks he was observed, it is estimated the consultant was paid over €14,000 for work he didn’t do.

Another consultant, specialising in ear, nose and throat and observed over an eight week period, worked an average of 14 hours a week at a public hospital.

Once a month, the same consultant failed to attend his public outpatient clinic; he was seeing private patients in a private hospital in a different city.

Based on HSE salary scales, over the eight week period he was observed, RTÉ Investigates estimates the consultant was paid nearly €15,000 (€14,921.56) for work he didn’t do.

Today, HSE consultant salaries range from €130,000-€229,000, before on-call and other allowances are added in; the documentary found that only 6% of all consultants treat public patients only.

In the main, consultants and the hospital they work in are supposed to adhere to an 80% public patient and 20% private patient breakdown.

RTÉ Investigates research, however, shows that failure to enforce the contract is resulting in 14 out of the 47 acute public hospitals exceeding the 20% limit at the expense of public patients.

In 2015, the number of private patients treated in these public hospitals in excess of the 20% private ratio was over 19,500.

Last year, meanwhile, the excess number increased to almost 24,000, meaning that a total of over 43,500 public patients on waiting lists lost out to private patients in the two-year period. The HSE stopped gathering national data on compliance with private practice limits in 2014.

RTÉ Investigates asked the HSE about the potential risk to patient safety when consultants work a large number of unmonitored hours in private hospitals while also working in public hospitals. The HSE did not answer that question.

Amongst the people interviewed as part of the documentary was Mary Comber, who sold her jewellery to pay for cataract surgery privately after two years on a public waiting list.

You can watch RTÉ Investigates – Public Vs Private: The Battle for Care on the RTÉ Player.

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