Patients with certain heart conditions and eye problems as well as doctors who need special surgical packs may be among the most vulnerable to risks from a no-deal Brexit, it emerged yesterday.
Health officials said the supply of some medical devices needed to treat these patients could potentially slow down if they are part of a regulatory hold-up because they do not have a quality assurance mark.
Around 30 companies, producing 6,500 of these devices, are being monitored by HSE officials and the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) in order to reduce the chances of shortages affecting patients here, the Oireachtas Health Committee was told.
Department of Health secretary general Jim Breslin said the regulatory issue which requires all companies producing these devices to pass standards and secure a CE quality mark is an EU problem, but the health service here has contingency plans to reduce the threat to patients.
Doctors are also being asked to come up with alternative treatments should the worst-case scenario emerge.
HSE official John Swords said around 50,000 square foot of extra storage space has now been secured as part of the plan to "buy time" and hospitals also have several weeks worth of stock in place.
The officials, who were giving an update on health service Brexit planning with just weeks to go before a potential crash out, said €10m has had to be spent so far in preparation.
Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly asked if there is now a change in tone from health bodies here regarding the risks to medicines and medical devices when compared to more definitive assurances of supply which were made up to now.
The officials said that while extensive contingency planning was put in place it remains a complex area, particularly in the transport of products that have a short shelf-life.
Early use-by products which contain a concentration of nutrients for newborns are made in Ireland but they mostly need to be imported for adults.
Around 20 hours may be added to the shipping journey to Ireland and this will add to the cost as more drivers will be needed.
"We have contacted all the primary wholesalers who have provided assurances that for the vast majority of medicines they will hold between eight to 10 weeks of stock," said Lorraine Nolan, CEO of the HPRA.
"This level of stock holding will allow Ireland manage short-term disruptions to the supply of medicines," she added.
Some companies may take a commercial decision to no longer supply the market here.