Hospitals are to be given about €1 million to secure additional capacity to provide diagnostic services for patients – including from the private sector – in advance of an anticipated surge in demand over the coming weeks.
The funding is being allocated by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF). It will come into effect on Monday and run until the end of January as part of the Government's overall plans for dealing with rising demands for health services in the peak winter period.
The Department of Health said on Sunday that the money would be earmarked for nine key hospitals around the country which have faced pressures in recent times as a result of overcrowding, as well as five other locations.
It said the additional funding would be made available to support patients presenting at the Mater hospital; St Vincent's University Hospital; Tallaght Hospital; Naas General Hospital; Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore; Galway University Hospital; University Hospital Limerick; Cork University Hospital; University Hospital Waterford; St James's Hospital; Beaumont Hospital; Our Lady of Lourdes, Drogheda; St Luke's General Hospital, Kilkenny; and Letterkenny University Hospital.
The funding will be used to secure diagnostic services in private facilities for patients who present at emergency departments as well as for the provision of additional radiology or other diagnostic services in the public hospital covered by the initiative.
Funding would also be used to pay for emergency diagnostic and surgery including angiograms, endoscopies and for transcatheter aortic valve implantations .
The department said the level and type of support for individual hospitals would be determined by the NTPF in consultation with the Health Service Executive.
It said the NTPF and HSE would review the level and take-up of support no later than January 7th and February 7th, with the option to expand to further sites and/or for a longer period, subject to the department’s prior agreement.
A spokeswoman for Minister for Health Simon Harris said: "Winter is always an extremely challenging period. Minister Harris wants to make sure everything that can possibly be done to assist patients and staff during what is inevitably a very busy time is done. The National Treatment Purchase Fund has an ability to provide more access to diagnostic tests, which helps get patients in and out of hospitals quicker and back home, where they want to be."