Although the public healthcare system is largely financed by the Irish Government, individuals may be required to pay fees for certain health care services such as attending an accident and emergency department without a referral. To enable people who otherwise cannot afford to pay for healthcare treatment a Medical Card system was introduced. This Card entitles individuals to access a range of health services free of charge. The number of individuals entitled to a Medical Card has increased in recent years irrespective of the age of applicants. A subsequent system in place is the GP Visit Card scheme which allows individuals and families to visit their GP for free. Another system in place, which 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 144 euros.
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 with the resulting impact on the number of hospital beds available also decreasing. This has resulted in a ‘Trolley crisis’ in Ireland with over six thousand individuals waiting on hospital trolleys, with the majority expected to wait over six hours before being assessed.