A DUBLIN hospital has outsourced the typing of letters to a company in the Philippines -- because it's faster.
Tallaght Hospital claims that the service it provides for patients works more efficiently when its letters are written 11,000km away.
As hundreds of thousands -- including countless clerical workers -- are stuck in the dole queues, the hospital claims that there is nothing wrong with the practice.
But a Government TD has described the outsourcing as "utterly bizarre".
All other hospitals in the capital say that they have no similar arrangement with any foreign companies.
The HSE admitted that in order to provide "quality and efficient turnaround time" the work of transcribing letters prepared by consultants is carried out by a private company understood to be based in the Philippines.
Labour's Robert Dowds has criticised the hospital, saying: "At a time when jobs are few and far between, I would much prefer this work to be done in Ireland. It is a bizarre practice given that letters which are intended for patients here are typed up halfway across the world."
He has raised concerns about the accuracy of the correspondence and confidentiality.
"You'd imagine important medical letters need to be typed up accurately and close to the source involved.
"I'd have concerns about confidential information getting lost or divulged and I'm calling on the minister to address this."
A spokeswoman for the hospital said that it employs medical secretaries within the facility to transcribe dictated letters.
"To supplement this process an external service provider is also used.
The hospital has a policy of identification and transcribing of urgent letters to avoid any delay. They are typed within 24 hours of being requested," she said.
"The hospital is very aware of patient confidentiality and patient names cannot be identified from the letters that are out-sourced."