Private hospitals are set to be treated as public amid the coronavirus pandemic in Ireland, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar has announced.
The public-private agreement will see 19 private hospitals leased for use as public ones.
These hospitals have an expected capacity of just under 2,000 inpatient beds, 47 ICU beds and 600 day beds, as well as 194 ventilators and 9 laboratories. This measures at 17 per cent of the capacity of the public health system, which stands at 11,000 inpatient beds and 2,300 day beds.
In a statement, the Irish government said that the additional capacity "will be critically important as we respond to this national health emergency".
The agreement will be in place for three months, with an option to extend and the government will cover the operating costs of the private hospitals.
"The plan is to use private hospitals as part of the public system as a partnership on a temporary basis to provide essential services," Varadkar explained.
Commenting on the move, Varadkar said: "We’re in the middle of a national public health emergency, and we need to do all we can to increase the capacity of our hospitals so we can provide critical care to those who need it."
"It’s all hands on deck in this national effort, and I am very pleased that the private hospitals have agreed to come on board and make their facilities available. The public and private sectors are tooling up and working together for the common good," he added.
The Irish Health Minister Simon Harris said that the emergency "requires a national effort".
"The owners and management of private hospitals have responded in the national interest and for the common purpose as part of the COVID-19 response," he said.
This comes after the Irish government announced the first isolation facility on Sunday, a hotel based in Dublin, which will provide 1,100 beds and 600 overflow beds, and will allow for "step down care" from hospitals, according to the CEO of the Healthcare Service Executive (HSE), Paul Reid.
Ireland has 2,615 confirmed cases of the virus and 46 deaths to date. There are 755,591 cases globally, with the United States recording the most at 148,089.