Everyone living in Ireland is entitled to free in-patient hospital services in public beds in public and voluntary hospitals. People who do not have medical cards may have to pay hospital charges. In-patient services are institutional services provided for people in hospitals, convalescent homes or homes for people with physical or mental disabilities. Day care is regarded as an in-patient service and you may be charged for it in the same way as if you were in hospital overnight.
Information about hospitals
Public and voluntary hospitals are subject to the Freedom of Information Act, 1997 and the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act 2003. This means that they are obliged to publish information about their structures, services and practices. You can access personal information about you if records are held by the hospital.
You must be referred for in-patient services by your family doctor (GP), the accident and emergency service of a hospital or an out-patients clinic. Most hospitals have waiting lists for non-emergency procedures. The National Treatment Purchase Fund was set up in Ireland to take public patients who have been waiting longest for procedures in public hospitals off waiting lists. To date, more than 90,000 people have received treatment through the Fund.
The National Treatment Purchase Fund:
Patients who receive treatment under the NTPF may be treated by:
Beds in public hospitals are designated as either public beds or private beds. If you are an in-patient in a public bed in a public or voluntary hospital, you are entitled to free maintenance but you may have to pay some hospital charges. You are entitled to free consultant treatment. You do not have the right to choose the consultant who will treat you.
If you are not resident in Ireland and you do not belong to any of the groups that are entitled to free services, you have to pay the full economic cost of the bed, whether it is a public bed or a private bed. You also have to pay the consultant. The Health Service Executive Area may waive some or all of these costs in cases of hardship.
Deaf and hard of hearing patients
Deaf and hard of hearing patients are entitled to interpretation services in public hospitals in Ireland. You should notify your public hospital that you are deaf or hard of hearing, in advance of your visit so they can make any necessary arrangements. Further information regarding these services is available from the Director of Disability Services at your Local Health Office.
In-patient charges in public hospitals
You may have to pay a daily charge for maintenance. The charge for in-patient services is €66 per day (1 January 2008), up to a maximum of €660 in a year.
The charge does not apply to the following groups:
In cases of excessive hardship, the HSE may provide the service free of charge.