Emergency health services
Emergency health services in Ireland provide medical attention for illnesses or injuries requiring immediate treatment. Typical examples of injuries that may require emergency health services include those resulting from accidents, heart attacks or other sudden illnesses.
Emergency health services are usually delivered by a general practitioner (GP), ambulance personnel or by attendance at the Accident and Emergency Department of an acute hospital.
The Department of Health has overall responsibility for policy on accident
and emergency health services in Ireland. The Health Service Executive (HSE)
has responsibility for the delivery of public health emergency health services.
In the public health service, the National Ambulance Service provides ambulance services for transporting seriously ill people to hospitals or between hospitals. The Dublin Fire Brigade provides an emergency ambulance service for the greater Dublin area.
Emergency ambulance services can be contacted by telephoning 999 or 112. (The 112 number applies throughout the EU). All calls are free.
Where services are provided to bring patients to or from non-urgent healthcare, other vehicles may be used if appropriate (for example taxis or minibuses). The Intermediate Care Service provides vehicles for transport of patients between hospitals and other medical facilities to ensure emergency ambulances are available to respond to emergencies.
Unless you have a medical card, you may be charged for ambulance services. However, the practice varies between different parts of the country and charges may be waived in certain cases, for example, in cases of hardship.
There are a number of private ambulance services, including air ambulance services. You can call them and pay for their services in the normal commercial manner.
There are also a number of volunteer ambulance organisations. They are generally used to provide immediate assistance at public events.
The Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council is the national body with responsibility for the professional regulation of ambulance personnel and for education and training in the area of pre-hospital emergency care in Ireland.
Family doctor (GP) emergency care
If you wish to attend your family doctor (GP) as a result of an emergency you can:
- Attend at a surgery operated by your GP during specific hours. You can find out what these hours are by contacting your GP.
- Phone your GP and ask for them to visit you during the time set aside for house calls.
- Phone your GP outside normal hours – the answering machine will usually indicate the number to ring in emergencies. This number may be a locum service or out-of-hours service. A locum service is one in which another doctor (not your GP) calls to the home of patients outside normal hours.
- Visit a GP out-of-hours co-operative.
GP out-of-hours co-operatives
In parts of Ireland, GPs have come together to form co-operatives providing a medical service outside normal working hours. These co-operatives receive financial assistance from the State. The co-operative may be based in a health centre, public hospital or in another location, often provided by the Health Service Executive. Participating GPs provide this service on a rota basis in the evenings, at weekends and on bank and public holidays.
Generally the service is available to the patients of the GPs participating in the co-op. It is necessary to telephone a contact number to access the service and the appropriate care may be telephone advice by a nurse or doctor. Care may also include attendance at a treatment centre or a visit to your home by the doctor on duty.
Medical card and GP visit card holders don't have to pay for the services provided by the GP out-of-hours co-operatives. Other patients have to pay a fee.
Accident and Emergency Departments of public hospitals
Most public hospitals provide accident and emergency services. Anybody in Ireland with a medical emergency is entitled to attend their Accident and Emergency Departments. You may have to pay charges for public hospital services.
People attending the Accident and Emergency Department of a public hospital are prioritised on the basis of medical need. You may be required to wait for treatment if you have a non-urgent injury or illness.
Some hospitals have injury units for minor injuries that are unlikely to require admission to hospital.
Some private hospitals and clinics offer emergency services. You will be charged the full cost of care in private facilities.
Entitlement of visitors to Ireland to emergency health services
If you are a national of a member state of the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland and you are travelling or staying temporarily in Ireland, you are entitled to receive medical care if you become ill or have an accident. These services are provided free of charge through the public health system on production of a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
There is a reciprocal agreement on medical treatment for temporary visitors between Ireland and Australia. Under the agreement, Australian visitors who access emergency public treatment pay the hospital charges that apply to people who are ordinarily resident in Ireland. If you are on a temporary visit to Ireland and are not covered under EU regulations, you will have to pay the cost of attendance at an Accident and Emergency Department. If you are not a national of an EU/EEA member state, or from Switzerland or Australia, you may also be charged the full economic cost of any further treatment, including medical care in an acute hospital. Therefore taking out private medical travel insurance before travelling is recommended.