The Irish government has reached an agreement with private hospitals to use all of their facilities during the Covid-19 crisis, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.
The agreement will see private hospitals being used to treat public patients throughout the outbreak.
Mr Varadkar said the private hospital sector is made up of 19 hospitals and has an estimated bed capacity of just under 2,000 in-patient beds, 600 day-patient beds, 47 ICU beds and 54 high dependency unit beds.
It equates to an increase in capacity of 17%, which is approximately 11,000 extra inpatient beds and 2,300 day beds.
Delighted we have secured an arrangement to use all private hospital capacity as part of our public health service during #Covid19 emergency. This means 2000 more beds, 101 more icu & hdu beds & 194 more venalitators plus theatres & lab capacity. A big agreement over the line! https://t.co/2E6a5NLNwb— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) March 30, 2020
Speaking at Government Buildings in Dublin, Mr Varadkar said: “As part of the actual plan to urgently ramp up capacity for acute healthcare facilities, an agreement has been reached with the private hospitals association to use their facilities for the treatment of Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients.
“The plan is to use private hospitals as part of the public system, as a partnership on a temporary basis to provide essential services.
“Private hospitals may also be used to undertake urgent non-Covid-19 elective procedures being transferred to these facilities in order to free up capacity and our major public hospitals.
“The private hospitals also have 1,000 single-patient in-patient rooms, which were very useful for isolation, and the sector has 194 ventilators as well as nine laboratories which will all be available for our use.”
Under the agreement, the HSE will secure 100% of the capacity of private hospitals.
All patients treated in private hospitals under this arrangement will be public patients.Leo Varadkar
“All patients treated in private hospitals under this arrangement will be public patients,” Mr Varadkar added.
He added: “I think it is important to be clear what’s happening here. This is not the nationalisation of private hospitals.
“This is a public private partnership, expanding our public health service in response to this emergency but also cooperation with the private sector.”
“This is private and public sectors to learning and growing together and working together in the common good.”
Everything can't go back to normal - it would be a complete fantasy to think that would happenSimon Harris
On Monday Minister for Health Simon Harris met representatives from Nursing Homes Ireland after a total of 22 coronavirus outbreaks were reported in nursing homes.
Speaking after the meeting Mr Harris said: “It is a cause for concern that we’ve seen so many clusters of infection in nursing homes and tomorrow the National Public Health Emergency team, chaired by the chief medical officer, will bring forward recommendations for us to consider in relation to what we can do to respond to infection to the virus in the nursing home sector.”
He earlier said that restrictions put on people to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak cannot stay in place for very long and he is concerned about the nation’s mental health.
The restrictions will remain in place for the next two weeks until Easter Sunday when they will be reviewed.
Under the restrictions, people are only allowed to leave their home for essential work, to buy food, attend medical appointments, vital family reasons or to take exercise within 2km of their home.
Mr Harris told radio station FM104 he is unsure when the restrictions will remain in place until but hopes some progress is made by Easter Sunday.
“Will the measure be extended beyond Easter Sunday? I’ve got to be truthful, I don’t know.
“I think these measures are so restrictive and significant that you cannot leave them in place for a very long time.
“The judgment call our doctors had to make was, what is the right time to bring these measures in? So what we’re planning to do is going intensively at this now for a couple of weeks so that when we get to Easter Sunday we can see some progress.
“Everything can’t go back to normal – it would be a complete fantasy to think that would happen.
“This virus will be with us for many months but is there some things we can lift on Easter Sunday? That is what we are all hoping.
According to Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) data, Covid-19 clusters were reported in three residential settings and 22 nursing homes,
The nursing home clusters account for 22% of the total number of clusters outbreaks in the Republic.
Before their meeting with Mr Harris, CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland Tadgh Daly told RTE radio: “We’re somewhat concerned the HSE is still recruiting people from our sector and one of our asks of the Minister today will be to desist recruiting people who are already working on the frontline.
“We’re somewhat concerned the HSE is still recruiting people from our sector and one of our asks of the Minister today will be to desist recruiting people who are already working on the frontline.
“This is a national effort and we need a national response. People who applied to the On Call initiative should be made available to the nursing home sector if and when required.”
On Sunday 10 more people died in of Covid-19 in the Republic and there were 200 further cases.
The median age of the deaths is 77.
The Chinese ambassador in Ireland He Xiangdong said he and his staff at the Embassy are helping to organise the millions of euro worth of protective equipment for healthcare workers in Ireland.
The first of dozens of flights from China carrying consignments of personal protective equipment (PPE) landed in Dublin on Sunday.
Speaking to RTE Morning Ireland, Mr He said: “The airports in Beijing and Shanghai are terribly busy with all the cargo flights from abroad.
“I think the supply chain in China is under huge pressure, we will do our best for all the world.
“I think the HSE procurement department is working closely with the supplier in China.
“We will try and do our best together to make sure all the PPE will abide by the standards.”