Private hospitals running at just 33% of capacity, says HSE

Aim is to increase elective procedures, many of which are delayed due to coronavirus

The State’s deal to effectively take over 19 private hospitals during the Covid-19 crisis is expected to cost about €115 million per month.  Photograph: Alessandro Crinari/EPA

The State’s deal to effectively take over 19 private hospitals during the Covid-19 crisis is expected to cost about €115 million per month. Photograph: Alessandro Crinari/EPA

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Private hospitals are currently operating at only 33 per cent capacity, opposition parties were told by the HSE at a Covid-19 briefing on Wednesday.

Public hospitals are currently between 80 to 90 per cent capacity, according to three TDs who were present for the meeting.

The HSE told politicians it was continuing with essential care such as cancer treatments and that the aim was to increase the amount of elective procedures, many of which have been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The State’s deal to effectively take over 19 private hospitals during the Covid-19 crisis is expected to cost about €115 million per month. Minister for Health Simon Harris said previously that the HSE had made advance payments for April of € 90.2 million.

“Under the arrangement, a participating private hospital is due 80 per cent of its estimated monthly costs in advance from the HSE,” he said, adding the costs would have to be verified and “any difference is subject to a claw-back in the subsequent month”.

Under the deal, private hospitals agreed to use all of their resources, staff and management to support the delivery of public services for the next three months.

Tracing app

Concerns were also raised by TDs during the meeting about plans for a Covid-19 tracing app which is currently under development by the HSE.

Speaking on Thursday morning outside DCU, head of the HSE Paul Reid said the app is due to be released in May.

“We are working through detailed discussions with the Data Protection Commissioner just in terms of the usage of it and what is stored, what data we use and what data we do not use. We will go through user acceptance testing piloting and that is a process we are aiming for in May.”

He said it will be an opt-in service and will not replace contact tracing but would instead support it. On the cost of the technology, he said the HSE does not have the final cost yet.

“We are still working through the model and business case for it, it will all depend on take-up as well. In terms of the overall cost that we are putting into testing and tracing and labs, it is minor in comparison.”

The Irish app, which is intended to help the HSE in tracking the spread of coronavirus and facilitating contact tracing for those exposed to the virus, is expected to use Bluetooth to allow phones to facilitate the exchange of information when users confirm a coronavirus infection.