Private hospital unit will see patients avoid A&E chaos

Unwell patients eager to avoid the emergency room chaos of public hospitals will soon have access to an alternative treatment venue at Cork’s largest private hospital.

From Wednesday, the Bon Secours Hospital on College Rd will operate a €700,000 medical assessment unit where patients with chest pain, shortness of breath, seizures, and acute asthma will have instant access to a consultant in emergency medicine.

Ronan O’Sullivan, who will head up the purpose-built, seven-bed unit, said patients will have the advantage of avoiding long trolley waits and can have necessary diagnostic tests organised on the spot.

Prof O’Sullivan, who previously worked in the emergency department at Cork University Hospital, said the medical assessment unit would offer more choice as winter approaches, generally the busiest time of the year, medically.

“In terms of choice, the public system is very pressurised and there really isn’t an emergency service available beyond the public emergency departments,” said Prof O’Sullivan. “And while we won’t be accepting ‘blue light’ patients such as cardiac arrest patients, or those in need of urgent intervention following a stroke or car crash, we will be working towards expanding the service to surgical patients down the line.”

The service, which will operate Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm, is open to public and private patients but comes at a cost.

Patients must be referred by their GP and the minimum fee on arrival is €125, compared to €100 without a referral letter at a public emergency department.

Thereafter, the charge is on a fee-per-item basis depending on what tests are required, up to a maximum of €495. This cannot be claimed back through private health insurance. However, if the patient is subsequently admitted to the Bon Secours, all but €50 of that fee is waived. Public patients cannot be admitted to the hospital, and if needs be, will be transferred to a public hospital.

Prof O’Sullivan said it was his experience that approximately two thirds of patients who attend emergency departments are discharged. He said the average fee was likely to be €300-€350.

The new unit at the Bon Secours marks the first phase in the development of its emergency services. Next year, its opening hours will be extended to cover bank holidays and weekends.

The medical assessment unit is located close to the main hospital reception and has set-down parking.


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