Closed borders puts Irish medical tourism on hold

Private hospitals in Ireland have agreed to use almost all of their resources to help state healthcare in the current crisis. With borders mostly closed, domestic medical tourism and the inbound and outbound flow of medical tourists with Northern Ireland have all but stopped.

The Private Hospitals Association (PHA) of Ireland has reached agreement with the Republic of Ireland’s state healthcare authority Health Service Executive (HSE) in relation to the provision of public health services in private hospitals as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 19 member hospitals of the PHA are taking this unprecedented step in the national interest and view the move as a critical contribution in the overall strategic management of the pandemic in Ireland. The PHA in Ireland has 2,500 inpatient and day beds in 19 hospitals with 8,000 staff.

This action on behalf of private hospitals enables the HSE on a temporary and not-for-profit basis, access to the existing bed capacity, high quality equipment and the services of clinicians and health care professionals working in the private hospital system.

Dr Josh Keaveny of the PHA has said: “PHA members recognised from the outset the unprecedented challenge that the COVID-19 pandemic would present to the country’s acute hospital infrastructure and immediately offered to play their part in the national effort to deal with the expected surge in demand for additional capacity.“

While private healthcare is suspended for a temporary period of up to three months it remains unclear if private outpatient appointments can still go ahead. Some private MRI scan centres may still function as normal, but this is yet to be clarified.

2.2 million people in Ireland have health insurance and health insurers may offer refunds or discounts, as much of what is covered cannot be provided either in or outside of Ireland.