Dáil debates

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions


12:20 pm

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

When patients are admitted to a public hospital, they have the option of whether they wish to be treated as private or public patients, depending on their insurance status. Patients opting to be treated privately in a public hospital have chosen to pay the consultant and the hospital for the services each provides. The fee is not just for the bed, therefore, it is for the service of the consultant and for other services provided by the hospital. Under section 55 of the Health Act 1970, the HSE is required to levy statutory private inpatient charges on all patients opting to receive private inpatient services. The statutory hospital charges that apply for such an episode of care depend on the category of hospital, the duration of stay and whether the accommodation provided was in a single or multiple occupancy room.

The core purpose of the public hospital system is to provide services to public patients. Nonetheless, historically and currently, a proportion of activity in public hospitals involves the provision of care to private patients and income generated in this way is a key component of funding the public hospital system. It is Government policy that users of private services in public hospitals should pay towards the cost of providing those services. The charges applied in respect of private care in a public hospital relate to costs which include those associated with non-consultant hospital doctors; nursing staff; medicines; blood, medical and surgical supplies; radiology; diagnostics; operating theatres; laboratories; administration; and support staff.

On visiting maternity hospitals, I know this is an issue that has been spoken about a lot in recent weeks and an issue that is causing a lot of concern and worry for expectant mums and, in particular, dads who want to be able to be there for those important appointments and crucial scans. It is a difficult situation but we need to bear in mind that so far at least, no pregnant woman has died of Covid-19 in Ireland and we want to keep it that way. Most women who are pregnant are in good health but sometimes there can be women in a hospital or on a ward who have a complicated high risk pregnancy with underlying medical conditions. We need to be honest and be wise to the fact that the more people who come into the hospital, whether it is partners or visitors, the higher the risk that Covid-19 could be introduced to the hospital. Therefore, there would be the risk that somebody who has a high risk pregnancy could get Covid-19, which could possibly result in the loss of the life of both the mother and the child. That is the risk that has to be assessed by the clinical directors and masters of the maternity hospitals and we need to respect their decisions when it comes to visiting. I understand what the Deputy is saying and as much as is possible, we should allow partners to attend, particularly at anomaly scans and so on. That should be done but we have to put our trust in the masters and clinical directors of those hospitals to make the right decision, based on the situation in their hospitals.


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