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New deal: Private hospitals agree to provide 30% capacity as 1,180 people hospitalised with Covid-19

109 people are being treated in ICU.

Image: Shutterstock/BigPixel Photo

Updated Jan 8th 2021, 8:00 PM

AN AGREEMENT HAS  been reached between the HSE and 16 private hospitals to provide additional capacity if necessary during the next 12 months. 

Under the agreement, the hospitals have agreed to supply, depending on the incidence of the disease, up to 30 per cent of their capacity. 

“The additional capacity created by this agreement is critical to enabling the public health system cope with large scale surges in the incidences of the disease,” Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said, welcoming the deal. 

“I am delighted that this agreement has been reached and note that the HSE was still in ongoing constructive engagement with the one remaining private hospital, which is already providing service to the public system.”

The arrangement will be in place for 12 months, during which safety net measures would be invoked in the event of Covid-19 surges.

The HSE will be responsible for triggering the arrangement which will be determined on the basis of metrics “which objectively indicate that a Covid-19 surge event is imminent or present”.

Figures from today show that 1,180 people with Covid-19 are currently being treated in hospital, of which 109 are in ICU. There were 116 additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours. 

Yesterday, hospitalisation figures topped 1,000 for the first time during the pandemic. HSE CEO Paul Reid described it as a “sad milestone”.

Earlier this year, the government reached an agreement with private hospitals to use all of their facilities during the Covid-19 crisis.

The deal cost taxpayers about €115 million a month.

“I would expect that the cost will be less, but the cost and the nature of the agreement will also be different,” Finance Minister Donohoe said about the agreements this morning. 

What we are looking to do is if we get to a very difficult place, ensure that we have additional capacity available on top of the capacity that’s available in our public hospitals.

In a statement, the Department of Health said that under the agreement private hospitals will be reimbursed “at the standard commercial rate”.

On its front page this morning, the Irish Daily Mail reported that HSE staff are writing personal information of people receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on paper before inputting it on a computer system.

“We are aware of and are focusing on the need to put in place strong IT systems to support what will be an unprecedented vaccination programme,” Minister Donohoe said.

“That particular issue – we will not allow that to get in the way of continuing to ensure that all the vaccine that comes into our country is quickly and carefully used.” 

He said the details outlined in the report are “one of a number of issues” the government needs to deal with. 

The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said yesterday that he expects private hospitals to step up and provide ICU bed capacity if the public system needs it. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, he said “we may well need” private ICU beds to deal with the third Covid-19 surge.

Private hospitals are an “important piece” in the fight against the virus, he said.

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HSE boss Paul Reid said yesterday that good progress has been made on an agreement with the private hospitals, stating that a number of private hospitals have signed up to the safety net agreement. He said they expect five more hospitals to sign up this week.

He urged private hospitals to work with them during the national crisis, adding “not to do so would be incomprehensible”.

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