€5m paid for patients to have dialysis done privately
By Mary Dennehy
TALLAGHT University Hospital last year spent over €5m paying for its patients to have dialysis done privately due to a lack of capacity at its own unit – more than a third of the cost of building a new, enhanced renal unit on site.
Work was due to commence on a new, two-storey renal building at Tallaght Hospital in January of this year, which would enhance the experience and care for dialysis patients alongside helping to build capacity on the Tallaght campus.
However, as previously revealed by The Echo, the HSE performed a U-turn on its commitment to deliver the renal dialysis unit this year, with the €14.6m development now “expected” to commence in late 2018 or early 2019.
Tallaght University Hospital is the regional, renal centre of excellence for the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, which includes Tallaght, St James’s, Naas General Hospital, Tullamore, Portlaoise, St Luke’s Radiation Oncology Network and the Coombe.
Questioning why new plans for the unit were pulled, local Sinn Fein TD, Sean Crowe said: “Dialysis activity at Tallaght University Hospital has increased to more than 30,000 dialysis treatments per year.
“However, it only has a designed capacity for 9,000 treatments a year. The remainder were delivered in satellite dialysis units.
“This is private, costly and represents an unacceptable clinical risk to patients.”
Deputy Crowe asked the Health Minister how much was being paid for private dialysis services and was told, through a reply to his Parliamentary Question, that it cost more than €4,056,000 in 2017 – not including the €1.2m in added transport costs.
“The heart of the matter is that there was an agreement to go ahead with a new unit,” Deputy Crowe said.
“It was agreed in 2017 and then inexplicably cancelled in January 2018.
“The failure to build it is impacting on patients, health care costs, and the hard pressed staff within the hospital.”
He added: “I cannot understand why the project has not gone ahead. We need answers.
“The space is there and it is ready to go. I talked to the local authority officials and there are no difficulties with planning permission.
“It is up to the HSE and, more importantly, the Minister to explain why the project has not gone ahead and when it actually will.
“It is absolute madness that the current system is squandering scarce money on private services when an alternative could be available within the public health system.”
When contacted, the HSE redirected The Echo to the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, despite specific questions being asked concerning funding – and the health service’s U-turn on the January 2018 start.
A spokeswoman for the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group said: “The allocation of capital is managed by the HSE Estates and they have advised that the proposed new Renal Dialysis Project at Tallaght University Hospital is expected to commence late 2018 / early 2019.
“The HSE and Tallaght Hospital will be in receipt of tenders by the end of Q3 2018 and a decision on the progression of the project will be made shortly thereafter.
“The new unit will not solely focus on increased capacity but also on enhancing the model of care, with a particular emphasis on home and self-care, building on existing status as a national home therapies centre.”