SwiftCare clinics will only be available to VHI policy holders from September
Walk-in VHI primary care clinics for minor health concerns will be open to its customers only, starting from September.
The VHI has announced that from September 1 its three SwiftCare clinics - two in Dublin and one in Cork - will be available only to its policyholders.
SwiftCare is a walk-in, urgent care clinic which deals with minor injuries.
The clinics were established to help patients avoid crowded A&E departments.
Until now they have been open to the public, though all patients have to pay for their services.
The VHI, which bought out full ownership of the clinics from co-owner Centric Healthcare, said the decision to restrict access was to "ensure speed of access for VHI customers" to the facilities.
It added some customers had struggled to get timely treatment at clinics.
In addition, it is widening its policies to make SwiftCare visits available at reduced cost to its policyholders, 100,000 of whom currently do not get a discount.
The SwiftCare package will be available on all of its hospital plans in variously priced bundles. Currently it costs €150 for a consultation with extra costs for treatment thereafter.
It is not available to medical card patients without full payment.
The VHI, which is State owned, bought out SwiftCare earlier this year.
The last filed accounts for 2015 showed a turnover of €13.8m with pre-tax profits of €2m.
The takeover was approved by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission in May.
"The VHI SwiftCare clinics introduced to the Irish marketplace 12 years ago have become increasingly popular, to the point where VHI customers have sometimes struggled to access them," Declan Moran, director of marketing and business development, said.
"The number of people availing of the service has grown year on year and this has caused us to evaluate how best to deliver services through these popular facilities.
"In order to ensure that VHI customers can continue to have speed of access, we have taken the decision to operate the VHI SwiftCare clinics for VHI customers only from September 2017."
SwiftCare clinics are open 365 days a year from 8am-10pm.
Patients who have not paid for private health insurance with the VHI will have to attend either an emergency department in an acute general hospital or the Beacon clinic in Sandyford.
The Beacon has a maximum consultation fee of €480, while the Mater Private charges a maximum of €600.
Neither of these emergency clinics see children under 16 nor deal with obstetric or psychiatric cases and neither is open after 7pm or on Sundays.