HSE doubts private hospitals will agree new deal for Covid-19 surges

Health authority had sought to take over up to 40% of beds for up to two years

The HSE report for the Government said there had been interest in principle from all bar one private hospital on its “safety net” proposals. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

The HSE report for the Government said there had been interest in principle from all bar one private hospital on its “safety net” proposals. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

The Health Service Executive doubts that the State’s private hospitals will sign a new deal to let the HSE take over several thousand private hospital beds if there is another Covid-19 surge.

In a HSE report late last week to the Cabinet, Ministers were told discussions on a new deal are continuing on a “Safety Net II” contract, but agreement on the proposals are likely to prove difficult.

In October, the HSE proposed that it should take up to 40 per cent of the beds in private hospitals for up to two years to deal with further surges in Covid-19 cases.

In the spring, the HSE effectively took full control of nearly 20 private hospitals for three months as the State battled to deal with the initial wave of the pandemic.

The HSE report for the Government said there had been interest in principle from all bar one private hospital on its “safety net” proposals.

However, the HSE warned that despite such general expressions, in principle it was likely to prove difficult to conclude agreement in the form originally proposed.

The HSE said the Department of Health had had further engagements with the association representing private hospitals and that there were further talks under way with the Department of Public Expenditure.

The report also said the HSE had issued invitations to the private sector on willingness to provide critical care services if needed but that the full details requested had only been received from three centres.

It is understood the HSE said health services were currently coping with the pressures posed by Covid-19. It said the services most under pressure were those located in Border areas.

Care package

The Irish Times reported in October that the HSE was seeking to take over up to 40 per cent of activity in private hospitals, potentially for two years, to deal with further surges in Covid-19 cases.

Under the proposals the HSE was seeking private hospital facilities to provide “time-dependent” complex medical and surgical treatment for public patients in a non-Covid environment.

However, in some cases patients with Covid-19 would be treated in private hospitals.

The HSE had sought an “all-inclusive” package of care to be provided, including the services of doctors in the private hospitals. This would be paid for in an overall fee based on the average cost for similar procedures in the public system based on consumables and staff costs.

The HSE said it submitted a paper to be considered at the Cabinet committee which gave updates on a wide range of areas in relation to both Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 healthcare services.

“Discussions with the private hospital groups are continuing and it would be inappropriate to comment on same at this point,” it said.