Statement by the IHCA on working arrangements during COVID-19 emergency
Over the past week, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has, on behalf of our members, engaged with the Health Service Executive (HSE) on the issue of working arrangements for the provision of care to all patients during the COVID-19 emergency.
Patients and consultants, including the 600 full-time private practice consultants, are understandably seeking clarification that care can continue to be provided. We have also sought to agree a timeframe and related provisions for such arrangements.
An understanding had been reached on 8 April 2020 between the parties which provided for both existing patients of full-time private practice consultants and new referrals necessitated by the COVID-19 emergency to be cared for on an agreed basis, including the continued operation of consulting rooms. However, this did not materialise in the written updated draft contract circulated by the HSE on 10 April 2020. If this proposed version was to apply, consultants would be liable for costs which would likely exceed their income thereby forcing the closure of consulting rooms needed to provide timely outpatient care.
Our full-time private practice consultant members will continue, voluntarily, to deliver urgent inpatient care and continue to provide time critical essential care from consulting rooms to permit an opportunity for agreement on the proposed contract without further delay. But patients and consultants need certainty as the current impasse is untenable.
Time is dragging on. Patients and consultants need clarity. We are all mindful of the bigger picture.
We remain available to engage and are urging all parties to intensify efforts in a spirit of realism and understanding. The COVID-19 crisis and wider provision of healthcare for all patients deserves no less.