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Government seeks ‘full private capacity’ in event of Covid-19 surge – report

The Government has directed the HSE to seek an agreement with private hospitals on the provision of “full access” to private hospitals in the event of another surge of Covid-19, including ongoing elective capacity, a new report has confirmed.

The controversial deal between the State and private hospitals is due to cease at the end of June and negotiations are currently underway on a new capacity arrangement.

According to the Report on the Social Implications of COVID-19 in Ireland – Update 5th June 2020, critical care capacity is “a key area of focus” in the ongoing delivery of Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 work.

The report states: “The HSE has set out high level requirements in this regard for permanent appropriate critical care capacity to ensure an ongoing service response to Covid-19. The Department and the HSE are engaging together in this regard.”

“Government decided that the existing arrangement should not be extended to the end of August and has mandated the HSE to negotiate a new arrangement with private hospitals which would provide the HSE with full access to private hospital capacity in the event of a surge of Covid- 19 and separately with ongoing agreed access, to enable the HSE to meet essential and elective care needs.”

“Work is being carried out by the Department, HSE and NTPF [National Treatment Purchase Fund] on modelling the impact of the pandemic on scheduled care through the scheduled care data group. The group continues to analyse available data and model the potential pent up demand for scheduled care as a result of decreased elective activity.”

Attempts to take control of full capacity in private hospitals is likely to be met with huge resistance by independent private hospital consultants, who campaigned strongly for the cessation of the current deal, introduced at the end of March.

The arrangement led to huge animosity between private consultants and unions, resulting in the formation of a new representative body, the Medical and Dental Consultants Association (MDCA).

Around half of the 600 private consultants nationally signed a temporary contract to provide care after private hospitals were nationalised.

Private consultants who declined the contract offer were unable to undertake procedures and said they were not able to provide continuity of care to patients.

Data on bed occupancy in private hospitals shows that average daily occupancy rates are around 37 per cent. 

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