Tanaiste and Health Minister Mary Harney has insisted that hospital consultants who are not referring patients to the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) must be named voicing concerns that the NTPF has only seen a fraction of patients from several hospitals that have long waiting lists.
NTPF chairman Pat O'Byrne commented that there was no valid reason why people should be waiting more than three months for a surgical procedure.
"There's no doubt there are some hospitals who could be referring more patients," he said. He quoted the example of one of the country's largest hospitals, Cork University Hospital (CUH), which referred only 253 patients to the NTPF last year, in comparison to the 1,783 made by the Mater Hospital in Dublin, the highest number of referrals in 2005. The others mentioned were Sligo General Hospital, which made only 237 referrals and 727 from Beaumont Hospital in Dublin.
"If we put the patient first, we have to inform the patient of what they are entitled to," she said
People in the State who have been waiting for over three months for a surgical procedure is entitled to have the NTPF arrange the treatment for them, normally within a matter of weeks.
However Irish Hospital Consultants Association has insisted that arrangements were in place whereby hospitals can refer patients directly without the involvement of consultants.
CUH said some cases were too complex to refer to the fund but said measures were being finalized to enable appropriate patients to access the scheme.