Plan to set out use of private hospitals for non-Covid procedures

Plan to set out use of private hospitals for non-Covid procedures

The HSE is planning to use the country's private hospitals to carry out urgent non-coronavirus procedures over the coming weeks.

The health authority's chief executive, Paul Reid, said 241 private hospital consultants had signed up to work in the public sector during the crisis.

Mr Reid, who was speaking at a media briefing, said the original plan was for private hospitals to accommodate an anticipated surge in Covid-19 cases but that had had not happened.

However, they had to proceed very cautiously because the World Health Organisation had advised that countries should prepare on the basis of a second potential surge in Covid-19 cases.

In a pandemic hospital occupancy levels should be maintained at about 80% and they would still have to plan for that.

The agreement with 18 private hospital groups had made 2,000 additional beds available, together with 54 critical care beds and an extra 200 ventilators.

Mr Reid said the private hospitals would be used to reduce the number of patients on waiting lists and to carry other priority work not related to Covid-19.

HSE chief operations manager, Anne O'Connor, said the health authority was working with private hospitals and the National Treatment Purchase Fund to ensure that the most urgent cases were being seen.

“We are working closely with the NTPF and private hospitals to ensure continued activity across all private hospitals,”she said.

“Obviously, we have been focusing on the most urgent cases in terms of oncology, cardiac procedures and other occurrences in making sure that people are being seen.”

At a local level, acute public hospitals were working with private hospitals to ensure the transfer of suitable patients to private hospitals.

“We expect to see that increased significantly over the coming week,” said Ms O'Connor.

On Saturday night there were 688 confirmed Covid-19 patients in hospital and 98 were in critical care units.

HSE national lead for integrated care, Dr Siobhan Ní Bhriain, said there had been a reluctance for patients to come forward for be treated for conditions needing to be treated in a timely manner.

Dr Ní Bhriain said there was also anecdotal evidence that patients were not undergoing tests, such as colonoscopies, because they were afraid of catching Covid-19

“If you are contacted for any test please do attend. It means the service is available and is able to look after you in a safe way,” she said.

HSE national Covid-19 lead for primary care, Dr John Browne, said there had been very significant falls in the number of patients attending general practice.

He urged people with serious health conditions other than Covid-19 to contact their GP who would be able to deal with them in a safe way.

Mr Reid said that testing for Covid-19 had taken place in 80% of nursing homes, with testing completed in 84% of homes that had an outbreak.

Over 176,000 tests had been completed last Friday putting Ireland among the top five or six European countries for testing.

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