Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Health
811. To ask the Minister for Health the details of the deal with the private hospitals and plans for maintaining the capacity to deal with non-Covid-19 related issues over the coming months; his plans for non-Covid hospitals; his views on whether all private healthcare and hospital capacity should be taken permanently under public control in view of the need for permanent increases in capacity needed to deal with Covid and non-Covid healthcare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7025/20]
The Government published its Action Plan in Response to Covid-19, on March 16 2020. In anticipation of the projected surge in Covid-19 cases and the expected impact on the health care system, a major part of the Action Plan was to urgently ramp up capacity for acute hospital care facilities. A critical element of the strategy was to put in place an arrangement with the private hospitals to use their facilities as part of the public system, to provide essential additional acute hospital services for the duration of the emergency. The terms of the arrangement reflected the expected Covid-19 pandemic at time of signing. It is in place for three months up to the end of June, with an option to extend it. Under the Terms to the agreement a decision to extend the arrangement must be notified to the private hospitals by the end of this month. The arrangement is currently under review and depending on the outcome a decision will be made on whether to extend or not. Any decision regarding an extension would have to be considered in the context of the evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic and the most effective use of resources in tackling it. Therefore, while there is an option to extend the arrangement, it is not intended that the arrangement will be permanent.
Acute hospital preparedness for Covid-19 has focused on bed capacity, on protection of non-Covid care, and on a number of other areas including infection control. In line with the Action Plan delivery of essential non-Covid care has continued. In particular, the delivery of cancer care, urgent surgery and trauma services are areas in which care continues to be delivered, including in private hospitals.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has approved a number of recommendations relating to protecting and maximising the delivery of essential time-critical non-Covid-19 care alongside Covid-19 care. On 5 May, NPHET agreed that its recommendation of 27 March, in regard to the pausing of all non-essential health services should be replaced, from now on, in regard to acute care, with a recommendation that delivery of non-urgent scheduled acute care be determined by appropriate clinical and operational decision making.
Guidance on patient pathways to mitigate the risks associated with the delivery of non-Covid-19 care, for patients and healthcare workers, to support the safe delivery of care has been developed under the auspices of the NPHET’s Expert Advisory Subgroup and approved in principle by NPHET.
As the system continues to deliver Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 care side by side over a more prolonged period, my Department and the HSE will continue to work closely together to protect essential non-Covid-19 acute care. The trajectory of the disease means that there is now an opportunity for increasing the provision of more routine non-Covid-19 care and it is envisaged that the private hospitals will play an important role in the provision of such care.