Until last year, the Galway Clinic was the first private hospital built in 20 years, but another 10 projects are now in the pipeline.
Work has begun on some developments, including the 183-bed €180m Beacon Hospital in Sandyford, Co Dublin, and the €100m 125-bed Hermitage Clinic in Lucan, Co Dublin.
Projects at an earlier stage include plans by Tom Kane, multi-millionaire owner of Adare Manor in Co Limerick, to build a 100-bed private hospital on the grounds of his five-star hotel, and proposals by developers Eurocare International to build two 40-bed clinics in Waterford and Carlow.
Harlequin Healthcare, which also has planning permission for a 40-bed clinic in Kilbarry in Waterford city, has put plans on hold pending clarification from Tánaiste and Health Minister Mary Harney of her plans for private investment on public hospital land.
In Dublin, Blackrock Medical Partners have planning permission to develop an €80m 100-bed clinic at Fonthill in Dublin. In Co Louth, a group is targeting a site on the Greenore Road, with the intention of building a 60-bed private hospital and in Co Kildare, ReNaasance Medica has been granted permission to build a 40-bed hospital in Naas.
The upsurge in the building of private healthcare facilities has been spurred on by generous tax breaks introduced in the 2001 Finance Act.
However, orthopaedic surgeon Jimmy Sheehan, founder of the Blackrock Clinic, the Galway Clinic and the Hermitage Clinic, has warned they are not receiving as much business from the State as expected. He said he had hoped the Galway Clinic would be a community hospital and not just for the exclusive use of private patients, but he said very few public patients are being referred for treatment despite bed space and availability of consultants.
He said they hadn’t had a single referral for a mammogram over a 10-month period, despite a nine-month waiting list for patients with suspected lumps at Galway University Hospital.
A spokesperson for the HSE said referrals were a matter for the referring clinician and the patient.