Emergency health services can change from country to country. There are always the questions: who to call, if it costs anything, and where to go in an emergency. Here you can find the most important information about emergency health services in Ireland.
Emergency health services in Ireland provide medical attention for illnesses or injuries that require immediate attention. Typical examples for this include injuries caused by an accident, heart attacks or other sudden and dangerous illnesses.
The emergency numbers for Ireland are either 999 or 112 and calls made to these numbers are always free. Bear in mind though that, while 999 is valid on the whole island of Ireland, 112 only works in the Republic of Ireland. The reason for that is that 112 is the general emergency number used in most European states, while 999 is UK and Ireland-specific. Fire and police services as well as the ambulance can be contacted via both numbers. You will be asked to specify which emergency service is needed as well as to provide the following:
- the exact address of the incident or emergency and/or any specific landmarks nearby
- directions to the scene of emergency
- the phone number you’re calling from (to call back if needed)
- details of what has happened, how many were involved, visible injuries or knowledge of any pre-existing medical conditions
Try to stay calm and listen to the call taker’s instructions while you wait for the emergency services to arrive.
What to do in an emergency
In an emergency, dial 999 or 112 and ask for the emergency service needed. In case of a medical emergency, for example, the emergency services will dispatch an ambulance as soon as possible to take you to the nearest hospital.
In the public health service, the National Ambulance Service provides ambulances for transporting seriously ill people to or between hospitals. The Dublin Fire Brigade provides an emergency ambulance service for the greater Dublin area. Other vehicles may be used to bring patients to or from non-urgent healthcare (like taxis or minibuses). The Intermediate Care Service provides vehicles for patient transport between medical facilities to ensure that emergency ambulances are available at all times. There are also a number of volunteer ambulance organisations that are most often used to provide immediate assistance at public events. Unless you have a medical card, you may be charged for ambulance services. However, charges may be waived for some cases.
Hospital emergency care
If you’re physically able, you can also make your own way to the Accident and Emergency (A&E) department of the nearest hospital. Though be prepared to wait for treatment if your injury or illness is not as urgent as others, since public hospitals prioritise their patients on the basis of medical need. When you move to a new area it is always wise to find out where the nearest A&E department is, as not every hospital is equipped to handle emergencies. Some hospitals also have injury units for minor injuries that won’t require a stay in the hospital. Private clinics and hospitals sometimes offer emergency services as well, though you will be charged the full cost of your medical care.
GP emergency care
If your condition is not serious enough to require a visit to the hospital, you can also consult your family doctor. You can see them either during regular office hours or ask them about house calls. In bigger towns and cities there are ‘after-hours clinics’ where you can see a doctor even outside of their regular opening hours. All Irish citizens under the age of 6 and over 70 are entitled to free GP visits.
In some parts of Ireland, GPs have come together to form so-called cooperatives that provide medical services outside their regular working hours. These cooperatives receive financial assistance from the State. They are often based in a health centre, public hospital or other locations provided by the Health Service Executive. Participating GPs offer this service on different shifts in the evenings, at weekends and on bank and public holidays. This service is generally available for patients of the participating GPs.
Cost of emergency services
Visitors from the European Union, European Economic Area or Switzerland that are traveling or staying temporarily in Ireland are entitled to receive medical care if they fall ill or have an accident. If you are in possession of an European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you don’t need to pay for your treatment. The same applies for Irish citizens in possession of a medical card. Non-EU visitors and Irish citizens without a medical card need to pay the standard emergency fee of €100 and/or regular hospital fees. Therefore it is always a good idea to take on a private medical travel insurance before coming to Ireland or before traveling in general.