Private hospitals will operate as public hospitals for the duration of the Covid-19 emergency in the latest effort to curb the progress of the virus and treat those who need care.
The move to effectively nationalise the health system was announced by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and forms part of a raft of fresh government initiatives to push back the spread of the coronavirus and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by the expected tide of cases.
The private hospitals will become public hospitals on a not-for-profit basis and will boost bed numbers by more than 2,000 while also bringing more laboratories and other services into play.
In a speech outlining the new measures, the Taoiseach said: “We also approved a framework agreement with the private hospitals. They will operate effectively as public hospitals under Section 38 of the Health Act for the duration of the Emergency thus adding over 2,000 beds, nine laboratories, critical care capacity and thousands of staff to our health service.
Speaking about the measure, Health Minister Simon Harris, said patients with Covid-19 will be treated for free in a single national hospital service.
“There can be no public versus private here,” he said.
In a statement, the Private Hospitals Association said it fully supports all strategic measures currently under consideration aimed at combatting the pandemic.
“Discussions are continuing on arrangements to allow the State to contract for a temporary period, the country’s private hospital bed capacity as well as the services of clinicians and health care professionals working in the private hospital system, as a critical next step in managing the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said.
“The precise detail of the HSE plan is still being discussed and we would hope to finalise this in the coming days.
“The PHA will continue to work in close partnership with the HSE in seeking to optimise the use of private and public facilities throughout the country in response to this unprecedented situation.”