There are three different types of hospital provision but there is very little difference in practice between the first two types, both of which provide public services.
Public health services are provided in HSE hospitals and public voluntary hospitals. Most of these also provide private health care but they must clearly distinguish between public and private beds.
Acute hospital services diagnose, treat and care for seriously ill or injured patients. Acute hospital services are provided in HSE hospitals, public voluntary hospitals and private hospitals. Some hospitals are specialist - for example, maternity or psychiatric hospitals, while others are general.
Normally, you must be referred by a GP in order to avail of hospital services. There are waiting lists for non-emergency services in many areas.
Sometimes people become long-stay patients in acute hospitals. There is no clear definition of the distinction between acute and long stay. Some local hospitals and geriatric hospitals have designated long-stay beds.
There is a charge for the first attendance at a public hospital or other facility for emergencies/accidents or out-patients clinics. There is also a daily charge for inpatient or day-patient stays. for more information, see our document Hospital charges.
The same charges for emergency/accident apply to
There are exceptions; medical card holders and certain other groups do not have to pay the charges.
You should obtain a letter of referral from your GP if you need to receive hospital treatment. You can attend accident and emergency departments in most general hospitals and some specialist hospitals without a letter of referral, but it is important to remember that you may have to pay for your visit.
You can view contact information for public hospitals in your area here.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.