HSE boss questions the future of 'parasitic' city hospital
The head of the HSE has called into question the viability of St Vincent's Private Hospital, saying it has a "parasitic dependence" on the adjacent State-funded public hospital.
Director general Tony O'Brien said approximately 56pc of admitting consultants operating in the south Dublin private hospital did not have contracts permitting them to work there.
He said he was concerned that a private hospital was being run off the back of a public one.
Mr O'Brien also questioned whether the private hospital was viable.
In a statement, St Vincent's categorically rejected Mr O'Brien's comments, describing them as "extremely damaging to the reputation of the group.
"We are also satisfied that all of the consultants who currently treat patients in St Vincent's Private Hospital are legally entitled to do so," it said.
Mr O'Brien told the Dail's Public Accounts Committee he had been seeking clarification from St Vincent's on the activities of consultants for up to eight months, but the information was not forthcoming.
He said "spurious reasons" such as data protection had been given for not disclosing further information.
Mr O'Brien said a new chairman appointed at St Vincent's, James Menton, had "not been as forthcoming as I would like".
The HSE funds the hospital group to the tune of €206m a year. The group comprises St Vincent's University Hospital, St Vincent's Private Hospital and St Michael's Hospital.
"What I am seeking to know is exactly how much work is being done by which consultants in that private hospital. I need to know for a number of reasons," said Mr O'Brien.
"I am concerned for the public hospital, but I am equally concerned for the private hospital.
"Given its bed stock, its theatres and its parasitic dependence on the public hospital, it may not even be a viable private hospital."
Mr O'Brien said the special administration of the hospital may have to be considered.
In its statement, the hospital group said there was "absolutely no justification" for Mr O'Brien to suggest this.
"We are shocked that he would make such a wild and damaging statement," it said.
Asked by Fine Gael TD Patrick O'Donovan whether the public hospital was "being put in a negative position" or "at a loss" because consultants on public contracts were working in the private hospital, Mr O'Brien said: "It may well be".
Over the past year the hospital group has been at the centre of controversy over top-up payments for senior executives. Mr O'Brien said there remained "serious outstanding issues concerning overall governance".