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 treated as public patients and their treatment was prioritised based on clinical need.
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 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.
The HSE is currently working to secure access to private hospital facilities to support capacity requirements. A procurement process is currently in train to secure access to additional acute services and diagnostic capacity from private providers which is required to address capacity needs over the next two years.
The HSE is also undertaking bilateral discussions with individual private hospitals to seek to agree new arrangements which would provide the HSE with access to private hospital capacity in the event of a surge of Covid-19 cases.