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Docs bleed State - Auditor general urged to probe medical professionals who abuse public resources

Published:Wednesday | November 2, 2016 | 11:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Juliet Holness

Member of Parliament (MP) for St Andrew East Rural, Juliet Holness, is calling for Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis to probe allegations that some medical practitioners are bleeding the resources in the public health sector to care for their private patients without paying the Government for using the facilities.

An apparently annoyed Holness told members of Parliament's hard-hitting Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that some doctors are using theatres and other facilities in hospitals at the expense of the state.

"I have been repeatedly told that there are many private practitioners who work in their private facility and also work in the hospitals and their private patients are walked through the system at a cost to the Government, at a cost to the private individuals who don't realise that their doctor is using the Government facility and collecting for it," she declared.

 

EXTENT OF SUFFERING

 

The PAC had invited the executive team from the National Public Health Laboratory, as well as senior members of the parent ministry, to address concerns raised by Monroe Ellis, who conducted a performance audit in December 2015 into the agency and found the laboratory wanting in many areas of its operations.

"Is there any mechanism we could use to determine the extent to which our health care system is suffering and bleeding because there are unscrupulous individuals who are profiting at the expense of the State?" the MP questioned.

The St Andrew East Rural MP insisted that if the system continues to suffer abuse from those who work in it, the level of resources being pumped into the health sector will not have the desired impact.

"If we are in a position where there is a chronic case of bleeding the system in that way, and we are not able to quantify what is the impact, it means that that could potentially be one of the big-ticket items that have resulted in us not being able to offer the quality health care that we need to for those who are most vulnerable and least able to afford it," she asserted.

Responding to the call, the auditor general suggested that the PAC send a formal request to her department on the probe, which she said could take the form of a special investigation.

Committee Chairman Dr Peter Phillips urged Holness to prepare a draft of the terms of reference of the investigation that she wanted the auditor general to conduct so that the committee could consider the matter.

Asked to comment on the concerns raised by Holness, chief medical officer in the Ministry of Health, Dr Winston De La Haye, said there were clear regulations regarding the management of private patients as opposed to public patients.

According to De La Haye, some consultants are given geographic private practice privileges. He said there are regulations in place governing this arrangement with private consultants, but noted that the regulation is in need of review.

"Where you have a private person coming into a public setting to begin with, it needs to be clear to everyone that that person is private, so you need to be able to place that on the chart. This will ensure that there is a clear delineation between public/private and you are providing the charges that are incurred to these patients," he said.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com