The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has said that the cost of implementing the proposals in the Sláintecare Report has been understated and will actually cost the taxpayer €20bn if implemented over 10 years, compared with €2.8bn stated in the Report.
In its submission to the Independent Review Group, the IHCA also said that the removal of the private practice income from public hospitals would have a devastating effect on hospital operating budgets, crippling their ability to treat an ever increasing number of patients.
The IHCA said that the costings included in the Sláintecare Report, which were stated to be in the region of an additional €2.8bn over a ten year period, were a gross underestimate of the real costs. The Association said that instead, the actual cost of implementing the 23 Sláintecare proposals would actually be nearly €20bn in the first decade, with the cost increasing to €28bn plus inflation in subsequent decades.
“It is absolutely astonishing,” said Dr Tom Ryan, President of the IHCA, “that the Sláintecare Report contains an underestimation of such magnitude.” He said that the proposal to remove private practice income from public hospitals by itself would cost the public hospitals €6.5bn over a ten year period and when adjusted for inflation the estimated cost would be in the region of €8bn per decade, which would be €800m in lost hospital income per year.
Dr Ryan said that ‘’based on our collective experience, the IHCA and its hospital consultant members have no confidence that the loss in private health insurance income will be replaced by the Exchequer. This is especially a concern as the State has for decades struggled to adequately fund the public acute hospital system. In the context of the ESRI projected 37% increase in demand for hospital care by 2030, removing the private revenue stream defies logic and will cripple the public hospital system.’’
Commenting on the resultant under-resourcing of public hospitals, Dr Ryan said that it “would only serve to exacerbate the existing Consultant recruitment and retention crisis. This proposal will cause an exodus of experienced Consultants from the public hospitals thereby reducing the availability of highly specialised clinical services to patients in public hospitals. The difficulties and challenges faced by the public acute hospital system are not caused by the patients in public hospitals. They are a consequence of years of underfunding and under resourcing, which have severely restricted and reduced the capacity of public hospitals to meet growing demand.”