Private healthcare system becomes public amid coronavirus pandemic

Áine O'Boyle

The government announced this afternoon that private hospitals will be used as part of the public health system during the coronavirus pandemic. 

At a press conference held earlier today, the Taoiseach said that private hospitals have agreed to work as part of the public health system for free, effectively ending Ireland’s longstanding two-tier healthcare system.

This change will see 2,000 beds, nine laboratories and thousands of staff drafted into the HSE throughout the duration of the crisis. 

The Department of Health’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan has said that the crisis is only just beginning, while Minister for Health, Simon Harris noted that “there can be no room for public versus private when it comes to a pandemic.” 

While the measures have only been put in place on a temporary basis, many people are calling for a definite end to the two-tier healthcare system, with public healthcare being available to all regardless of whether or not one can afford health insurance. 

Author and writer, Caelainn Hogan said: “There should be no going back from this.” 

The two-tier healthcare system has proven to be advantageous for those with private healthcare insurance such as VHI, whether it be by allowing them to be seen by a specialist consultant quicker or being given a private room in a hospital.

The news of private hospitals being drafted for public availability came alongside a series of restrictions, including that of: all non-essential retail outlets being asked to close, people being asked not to exceed groups of four people and individuals being asked to work from home unless it is essential to attend the workplace. 

Increased efforts are being made to curb the progression of the virus as the number of people suffering from covid-19 exceeds 1,000, with a number of those currently in intensive care. 

“Patients who have this virus will be treated for free, and they will be treated as part of a single, national hospital service.” said Harris. 

The meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team earlier this morning established that these new measures will remain in place until at least Sunday, April 19th, after which they will then be reviewed in keeping with the progression of the virus. 

Áine O’Boyle

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