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Second takeover of private hospitals unlikely despite virus surge


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There are no plans for the HSE to again take over all the private hospitals in the country to provide surge capacity to cope with the fourth wave of the virus.

Last year private hospitals were shut down as they were taken over by the HSE to provide beds to deal with surging case numbers, denying people with health insurance access to private hospitals and clinics.

Now the fourth wave of the virus has raised fears of the same happening again.

But the indications are that the current deal between the HSE and individual hospitals to provide beds to the HSE could be extended, rather than all private hospitals being taken over.

This deal looks likely to be extended.

Health insurance broker Dermot Goode said those with insurance cover were unlikely to be denied access to private hospitals this time.

This is despite the fact that public hospitals have been ordered to move to Covid crisis mode as bed capacity runs out.

Mr Goode of TotalHealthCover.ie said public hospitals were transferring some routine, non-Covid, procedures to private hospitals so they can concentrate on treating those with the virus.

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In January, all 18 private hospitals signed up to a “safety net” deal that allows the HSE to use private beds while coping with capacity pressure during Covid-19 surges.

The deal will allow the health service to use up to 30pc of the private hospitals’ capacity.

The HSE said a “safety net arrangement” is in place with them.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said this week: “The safety net agreement, as we currently have it, continues to the year end, and we’re also looking at a further extension of that, obviously.”

He said the HSE was using around 1,100 bed days per week of private capacity, and he sees it going up to 2,800 to 3,000 bed days per week.

The Private Hospitals’ Association said private hospitals are ready to assist again as necessary. 

But the private hospitals have not been approached by the HSE to either reactivate the safety net or to discuss future arrangements once it expires, the spokesperson added.

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