In response to the COVID-19 pandemic the HSE had to take measures to defer all non-urgent elective scheduled care activity, including outpatient clinics. 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 the World Health Organisation, the measures set out in the Government’s Action Plan in Response to Covid-19 and the recommendation of NPHET. The NPHET has now recommended that steps be taken to resume non-urgent scheduled care in the context of the safe care guidelines set out by its Expert Advisory Group.
A major part of the Government's Action Plan was to substantially increase the capacity of healthcare facilities to cope with the anticipated additional demand. As part of the Action Plan 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. Under the arrangement, all patients in the private hospitals are treated as public patients and their treatment is prioritised based on clinical need. A Heads of Terms of an 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. The arrangement is in place for 3 months up to the end of June, with an option to extend it. Under the Heads of 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 or not to extend it.