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Health care system in Ireland - Statistics & Facts

The health care system in Ireland is considered to be a comprehensive system with a public health service funded by the government and an expanding private health care service. Individuals who are resident in Ireland for at least one year are entitled to receive health care through the public health care system managed by the Health Service Executive (HSE). Ireland’s expenditure on health care as a share of GDP amounted to 7.2 percent in 2020. The public health care system is heavily funded by the Irish Government, with the deficit paid through voluntary health care payments and household spending. A large proportion of expenditure goes towards hospitals and ambulatory health care providers. When looking at expenditure by health care function, more than half of current spending was spent on curative and rehabilitative care.

Medical Card & GP Visit Card

Although the public healthcare system is largely financed by the Irish Government, individuals are required to pay fees for health care services such as visiting a general practitioner (GP), which costs 40 to 70 euros. Attending an accident and emergency department without a referral will cost around 100 euros, while hospital charges are 80 euros per day (with a maximum of 800 euros per year). To enable people who otherwise cannot afford to pay for healthcare treatment a Medical Card system was introduced, where eligibility is predominantly based on income. This allows individuals to access a range of health services free of charge. The number of individuals entitled to a Medical Card has been decreasing since 2012. A subsequent system allows individuals and families, who earn too much to qualify for the medical card but still under a certain threshold, to receive a GP Visit Card providing free visits to their GP. Another system in place, which all residents may apply for, is the Drugs Payment Scheme, which caps the amount that an individual or family has to pay per month for approved prescribed medication at 114 euros.

Hospital overcrowding

The majority of hospitals in Ireland are operated directly by the HSE, however many are run under a voluntary basis by public funding, as a teaching hospital, in conjunction with a religious ethos or as private hospitals. The number of hospitals in operation in Ireland has decreased in recent years resulting in a decreasing number of hospital beds available. This has led to a ‘Trolley crisis’ in Ireland with over 9.5 thousand individuals waiting for beds on hospital trolleys in the month of August 2019. This number was greatly reduced in August 2020, most likely due to COVID-19 pandemic effects. However, with the number of patients in trolleys on the rise again, health experts warn of dire outcomes of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic amidst a hospital overcrowding crisis in Ireland.


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