Silos in Health Services Stopping Progress for Patients

The Private Hospitals Association (PHA) of Ireland held its Annual Conference in Galway last month, with a focus on future trends in private health care – exploring amongst other things how the care provided to patients will change over the next five to ten years.

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris opened the all-day event, which also featured other key players in healthcare including the Secretary General of the Department of Health Jim Breslin, the Chief Executive of the Royal College of Physicians, Leo Kearns and Professor Frances Ruane, the former Director of the ESRI and the chair of an expert group that reported in 2010 on financing healthcare in Ireland.

Other speakers included Paula Wilson, a US expert on standards in healthcare and cyber-attacks on hospitals, Arne Bjornberg, publisher of the European Health Consumer Index and Ciaran Breen of the State Claims Agency.

Mr Simon Nugent, the Chief Executive of the Private Hospitals Association, told the organisation’s annual conference, that public and private hospitals could be partnered to at last make headway for public patients.

“Private Hospitals stand ready to crank up activity to help public patients,” Mr Nugent said. “While there are waiting list initiatives, these need to be stepped up rather than the current drops in the ocean that they are. The initiatives should be made fit for purpose for the scale of the current challenge and expedited.”

“A silo mentality has operated for too long where the public system does not exploit the potential of private hospitals. The Department of Health doesn’t even involve private hospitals in winter planning. Now that we are in high summer, well ahead of the winter, a public-private hospital partnership should be developed to ensure patients do not suffer unnecessarily. Ideology has a place in healthcare but it should not be at the expense of making patients suffer and wait.

“Without much ado, an appointments system and partnering arrangement could be developed between nearby public and private hospitals where those seeking care quickly could be treated,” Mr Nugent said.

“Ireland’s health services are in crisis. The public wants modern, fit-for-purpose healthcare systems. The State hasn’t the assets to achieve this on its own and it shouldn’t cut its nose to spite its face and ignore the potential of interactions of private and public hospitals that could help patients and underpin the health and wellbeing of Irish society. This debate is increasingly important as the Government decides on the best approach to invest and reform.”

The Private Hospitals Association conference also hosted the first debate on the Future of Healthcare Committee report. Politicians, commentators and industry figures featured in the discussion on the future of healthcare with former Chairman of the HSE, businessman Frank Dolphin participating.

“Ireland is at a crossroads with a new Taoiseach and a new report on the future of the healthcare system here so an insightful conference has never been more timely,” added Mr Nugent.

“We all want modern, fit-forpurpose healthcare systems in Ireland and this conference will explore the interactions of private and public hospitals that could help patients and underpin the health and well-being of Irish society. This debate is increasingly important as the Government decides on the best approach to invest and reform.”

The conference comes at an important time in Irish health care policy, following quickly upon the publication of the keenly awaited report of the first all party Dáil committee proposing a strategy on the future of health care.

Mr Nugent added, “We have an opportunity to tease out the recommendations and see what they might mean in practice for the future development of the private hospital sector which already treats over 400,000 patients annually in 20 hospitals across Ireland.”

The CEOs of major private health insurers, John O Dwyer of VHI, & Jim Dowdall of Irish Life Health also addressed the conference which featured delegates from private and public healthcare systems. The conference also showcased technologies only available in the private system in Ireland.

Mr Nugent added, “The priorities for investment in the sector so as to ensure we continue to offer the most up-to-date and appropriate treatments to patients.”

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