Private consultants should be allowed to treat their emergency non-Covid-19 patients, an Independent TD has said.
Last month the government reached an agreement with private hospitals to use all of their facilities during the Covid-19 crisis.
Marian Harkin told the Dail she fully supports the action taken by the state to take over private hospitals but said patients of private consultants are being left in limbo.
Nineteen private hospitals are being used to treat public patients throughout the outbreak for a three-month period.
“We can see it as success that over 2000 beds are not being used right now.
“However, there is a need for flexibility in the contract being offered to consultants in order to be able to treat their emergency non-Covid patients they must be insured.
“If they don’t sign that contract by next Sunday, they don’t have insurance but if they do sign it, they leave all of their other patients in limbo.”
“All patients matter and that should be bottom line – whatever ideological struggles are going on now is not the time.
“We need to focus on Covid and non-Covid patients. As you said yourself, Taoiseach, cancer has not gone away.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said currently the country’s private hospitals are 33% occupied while public hospitals are 80% occupied.
“That is not necessarily a bad thing – the reason for this is that we wanted to be prepared to make sure our hospitals and ICUs were not overwhelmed as they had been in other countries.”
“We may need that capacity yet – this could all go wrong.
“I would not like us to make the mistake of relinquishing that capacity only to find out in a few months time or in the winter that we really need it.”
Mr Varadkar said elective procedures could re-start in hospitals in the coming months but not until the worst of the crisis passes.