HSE never used more than 45% of the capacity of private hospitals during the pandemic

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has never used more than 45% of the capacity of private hospitals that were taken over by the state at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Dáil’s public accounts committee said.

The three-month agreement gave public patients access to 2,300 beds in 18 private hospitals and cost 287 million euros.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid also told the committee that the cost of handling the cyberattack on healthcare services last May could amount to around $ 100 million.

He also said the HSE depreciated 374 million euros (out of a total expenditure of around 900 million euros) against the current value of personal protective equipment purchased last year.

This included a write-off of expenses on protective suits that would have to be obsolete before they were needed for use.

The Irish Times reported in July that the HSE was to set aside 64 million euros in its accounts for the year due to the “early obsolescence” of protective suits it bought last year. He depreciated the value of these suits on the basis that clinical demand indicated they carried up to 41 years of supply.

The public accounts committee was also told that at present, the HSE owed around € 35 million in pre-purchase of ventilators from China at the start of the pandemic, the order of which was subsequently canceled.

The HSE predicted that it would soon receive reimbursement of an additional 11 million euros from a Chinese supplier, leaving 23 million euros in arrears.

Risk-based approach

Mr Reid said the HSE took a risk-based approach to sourcing in a market that was not normal at the time. He said that at the time, early predictions suggested as many as 40,000 people could die and that Ireland “from an intensive care perspective, was not at all solid by international comparisons” .

He said he wanted his procurement teams to take action quickly and accepted that there were things that would be done differently now.

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy also told the committee that an alleged payroll fraud at an HSE hospital had been referred to the gardaí.

The public accounts committee held a hearing on Thursday on HSE spending and purchasing during the pandemic.

HSE chief financial officer Stephen Mulvany said the three-month deal in March, April and May last year, which gave public patients access to 2,300 beds in 18 private hospitals across the country , had cost 287 million euros.

He said 50,000 procedures for public patients had been performed at private hospitals as part of the deal. He said the good news was that there was no need to use the full capacity level of private hospitals and the potential threat of overwhelming the public hospital system had not materialized.

He said the HSE had never used more than 45% of private capacity.

HSE director of operations Anne O’Connor said the hotel and other facilities in City West, which HSE initially took over as a reduction unit during the early stages of the pandemic, were still in use. to provide isolation accommodation and to assist with screening and vaccination programs.

“Without it we would be lost,” she said.

Mr. Reid confirmed that the use of private hospitals as well as increasing the capacity of the public system will be part of the new plan to tackle waiting lists.

Mr Reid told Imelda Munster of Sinn Féin that the bill to deal with the cyberattack could run up to around 100 million euros.

When asked if there had been a lax approach to security, he said the HSE previously did not have 24/7 monitoring of its networks and that it was ‘a weakness that should be remedied.

“There will certainly be some weak points that we will have to correct. There will certainly be discoveries [in a forthcoming consultancy report] that we risk being exposed at the level of our network and that there will certainly be a whole series of actions and investments that we will have to take to better protect it.


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