Health Minister Suspends Private Practice Privilege at National Chest Hospital


Minister of Health and Environment, Rudyard Spencer, has announced the suspension of the Geographical Private Practice Privilege(GPPP) for consultant medical doctors at the National Chest Hospital, in Kingston.
This provision allows consultant medical practitioners, engaged in both public and private practice, to utilize the hospital’s equipment to administer health care to their private patients, for fees separate from those charged to public patients.
Making the announcement at a media briefing at his Ministry, downtown Kingston, on Friday (Feb 13), Mr. Spencer said that the suspension followed deficiencies revealed in the South East Regional Health Authority’s (SERHA) monitoring of the mechanism. The deficiencies were outlined in a report from a special committee he established in July, 2008 to inquire into the hospital’s operations. SERHA has administrative responsibility for the NCH.
The minister confirmed that the report revealed that a consultant physician, attached to the hospital, charged public patients exorbitant private fees for his services.
Mr. Spencer explained that the privilege is not unusual or new, as it is incorporated in the contracts of consultants as an incentive which, if monitored properly, normally works well.
He was supported by the Ministry’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester.
“It is not an unusual situation, and the whole matter of geographic private practice, which can be accessed by consultants, is part of our policy. It was set up as an incentive, because many years ago what we would find is that many doctors would not go to certain institutions,” she said.
As a result it was made policy several years ago, and an allowance was made for consultants to have their private practice on site, using the equipment and facilities of the hospital.
“One thing we need to understand is that there is a separation of patients, private from public, according to the guidelines,” she explained.
Mr. Spencer pointed out, however, that the process wasn’t being properly managed by SERHA.
He said that the committee’s report indicated that SERHA had been weak and ineffective in monitoring and ensuring adherence to the mechanisms, which resulted in abuse of the system.
Mr. Spencer said that the doctor, at the centre of the inquiry, has been suspended from the institution, and a copy of the report sent to Attorney General for legal guidance on the matter.
“As soon as I get their response. I will be acting,” he said.
Responding to questions about reports of the practice being abused at other public hospitals, Mr. Spencer said he was not aware of any other. He added it would be examined and dealt with whenever the need arises.
“I am satisfied that what I am doing is right. If the facts lead me in a certain direction, that’s where I am going, make no mistake (about it),” he asserted.
The Minister said that monitoring guidelines will be strengthened. They are currently being addressed under the Ministry’s transformation programme.
“The North East Regional Health Authority (NERHA) has already established a strong monitoring system, and this will be rolled out to the other regions, following consultations with the other three regional health authorities,” he assured.

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