Thursday, 21 May 2020
Covid-19 (Health): Statements
Paul Murphy (Dublin South West, RISE)
We have a situation whereby the State has now paid €112.4 million, as I understand it, to the private hospitals owned by, among others, Denis O'Brien, Larry Goodman, etc. We know from reports that the State is paying up to four times as much per bed as is paid in the United Kingdom. We are now finding out that, two weeks after the figures were to be provided by the private hospitals, the Minister has not looked at those figures. We are expected to be okay with that and with the fact that he has repeated in writing that he is refusing to publish the figures on the grounds of commercial sensitivity. As a result of this, the public will not get to see them.
The public is asked to pay the bill for this, which is substantial, but does not have oversight. This makes a joke of the idea of the open books model which was touted by the Government. The sum of €115 million per month is more than the entire debt write down for Siteserv, with which it was claimed there was no problem at the time but which then required an inquiry. If the Government, the State and private hospitals have nothing to hide here in terms of the deal then I do not understand why these figures are not published. This is an arrangement between the State and all of the private hospitals. The only way we can understand why we are paying what look like - although we do not have the full information - extremely high fees per bed is to publish the accounts. The public is paying for this and has a right to see the receipts and to know what is happening in our health service.
The Minister has said in the past that in retrospect, the Comptroller and Auditor General will be able to look at this but the idea that behind closed doors an accountant will look over costs is simply not acceptable. We are talking about €500 million of public money, potentially, by the time this is finished, or something close to that. Again, I ask the Minister to look at the costs. I also ask him to intervene to, at the very least, allow Deputies to view the figures but they should really be published. The public has a right to know.