Everyone regarded by the HSE as resident for health services is entitled to free in-patient hospital services in public beds in public and voluntary hospitals. People who do not have medical cards may have to pay hospital charges.
In-patient services are institutional services provided for people in hospitals, convalescent homes or homes for people with physical or mental disabilities.
Day care is regarded as an in-patient service and you may be charged for it in the same way as if you were in hospital overnight.
You must be referred for in-patient services by your family doctor (GP), the accident and emergency service of a hospital or an out-patients clinic. Most hospitals have waiting lists for non-emergency procedures.
Information on waiting times for procedures is now available online.
Beds in public hospitals are designated as either public beds or private beds.
If you are an in-patient in a public bed in a public or voluntary hospital, you are entitled to free maintenance but you may have to pay some hospital charges. You are entitled to free consultant treatment. You do not have the right to choose the consultant who will treat you.
If you are not resident in Ireland and you do not belong to any of the groups that are entitled to free services, you have to pay the full economic cost of the bed, whether it is a public bed or a private bed. You also have to pay the consultant. The Health Service Executive Area may waive some or all of these costs in cases of hardship.
Deaf and hard of hearing patients are entitled to interpretation services in public hospitals in Ireland. You should notify your public hospital that you are deaf or hard of hearing, in advance of your visit so they can make any necessary arrangements.
You may have to pay a daily charge for maintenance. The charge for in-patient services is €75 per day (since 1 January 2009), up to a maximum of €750 in a year. The charge does not apply to the following groups:
In cases of excessive hardship, the HSE may provide the service free of charge.
If you are a private patient in a public hospital, you must pay for your maintenance at a rate set from time to time.
The charges from 1 January 2014 are in our document Hospital charges.
You are a private patient of the consultant who is treating you and you must
pay for that consultant's services. You must also pay for the services of any
other consultant who is involved in caring for you, for example, the
radiologist, anaesthetist, etc.
You can obtain a letter of referral from your GP, the accident and emergency department of a hospital or an out-patients clinic.
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.