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Ministers told to name hospitals that refuse Cabinet deal

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Leo Varadkar. Photo: Julien Behal/PA

Leo Varadkar. Photo: Julien Behal/PA

PA

Leo Varadkar. Photo: Julien Behal/PA

Cabinet ministers have been told to call out private hospitals that refuse to sign up to a new framework for providing care to public patients, as the health service comes under massive strain from Covid-19.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said hospitals that do not sign up to a deal cleared by Cabinet yesterday should be publicly named for not playing their part in the fight.

Three sources at the meeting confirmed Mr Varadkar's comments and said the Taoiseach agreed with the Tánaiste.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly brought the new private hospital plan deal to Cabinet as the public health service was dealing with a record number of hospitalisations due to the virus and was rapidly running out of intensive care unit (ICU) beds.

Last night, there were only around 20 ICU beds available in the entire public sector.

Mr Donnelly said a "huge amount of work" had been put into the framework by the HSE and the Private Hospitals Association.

Urgency

"My understanding is that there are several hospitals very interested and my hope is that all private hospitals will sign up as a matter of urgency," the minister added.

Last night, the HSE sent copies of the framework to all private hospital groups apart from the Denis O'Brien-owned Beacon Hospital, which has decided not to sign up to the arrangement.

A spokesperson for the group said the hospital already provides care to public patients through individual arrangements with public hospitals and through the National Purchase Treatment Fund.

"Because of these arrangements, 20pc of the capacity of the hospital is currently being used to treat public patients and we expect this to increase as the volume of requests has increased," the spokesperson added.

The HSE framework for private hospitals will include three phases. These will be triggered at various stages, depending on the pressure on the public health service due to the spread of the virus.

The first phase would allow the HSE to take over 15pc of an individual private hospital, and the second would allow for 30pc.

In the third phase, the HSE would negotiate for further capacity.

The phases can be triggered when the incidence of the disease is at a particular level, when the R number is high and the public hospitals are under major strain.

Threshold

An independent mediator will decide if the threshold has been reached.

Private hospitals will continue to treat their own patients as normal, unlike during the earlier phase of the global pandemic.

A Government source said the current rate of infection in the country would automatically trigger the first two phases in the new contract.

Yesterday, Nphet reported 7,836 new cases of confirmed Covid-19 and 17 further of people who contracted the virus.

This takes the total number of cases in the State to 121,154, while the number of people who have lost their lives to the virus stands at 2,299.


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