Tuesday, 28 July 2020
Department of Health
Hospital Appointments Status
A major part of the Government's Action Plan in response to Covid-19 was to substantially increase the capacity of public healthcare facilities to cope with the anticipated additional demand. In order to urgently ramp up capacity for acute care facilities, an arrangement was agreed with the private hospitals to use their facilities as part of the public system on a temporary basis, to provide essential services. A Heads of Terms of Agreement between the HSE and the Private Hospitals was agreed at the end of March 2020 and all 18 of the acute private hospitals signed up to it. Under the arrangement, all patients in the private hospitals were to be treated as public patients for the duration of the agreement and their treatment prioritised based on clinical need. Provision was made under the agreement to allow for continuity of care for patients who were in a private hospital or attending for treatment at the time the Heads of Terms of Agreement were agreed, on the grounds that these patients would be treated as public patients.
The agreement was reviewed at the end of May and the Government decided that the existing arrangement should not be extended beyond the end of June. It has however mandated the HSE to negotiate a new arrangement with private hospitals which would provide the HSE with full access to private hospital capacity in the event of a surge of Covid-19 and separately with ongoing agreed access, to enable the HSE to meet essential and elective care needs.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic the HSE had to take measures to pause most elective scheduled care activity with effect from the end March 2020. This was to ensure patient safety and that all appropriate resources were made available for Covid-19 related activity and time-critical essential work. This decision was in line with the advice issued by National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) and in accordance with World Health Organisation guidelines, and the National Action Plan.
The trajectory of the disease means there is now an opportunity for increasing the provision of non-covid care including more routine care. NPHET has since revised its recommendation on the pausing of all non-essential health services, with a recommendation that the delivery of acute care be determined by appropriate clinical and operational decision making.
In relation to the specific issue raised in your correspondence, the HSE has advised that a patient who is in need of ongoing treatment should contact their Consultant, who is familiar with their circumstances and can best advise them on the process.