CHARGES for hospitalized patients will be eliminated from April under the new plans approved today.
Health Secretary Stephen Donnelly received the green light from Cabinet for a bill that would scrap fees.
The fee for inpatient/day medical services is currently €80.00 per day, up to a maximum of €800.00 or 10 days per year.
The move was included in the 2023 budget and is expected to cost 30 million euros.
Mr Donnelly said the bill “will remove for everyone the existing financial burden of public inpatient fees when accessing care in a public hospital”.
He added: “This measure builds on the elimination of public inpatient fees for children, which I introduced last year, and is another important step in ensuring people have access to affordable health services.”
Mr Donnelly indicated he would present the legislation to the Oireachtas in March.
He said: “The general plan will now be referred to the Attorney General’s office for priority drafting of the bill.
“The text of the bill is urgently finalized and it is intended that legislation will be advanced primarily through the Houses of the Oireachtas in the coming months.”
Mr Donnelly has also pledged to extend free GP care to children aged six and seven and to extend the free birth control program to those under 30 – it is currently available to those under 26.
After a report by the Mental Health Commission on child mental health services found that some children were becoming lost in the system and that aftercare was not up to standard, Mr Donnelly said action was being taken.
He said he and Secretary of State for Mental Health Mary Butler are considering a recommendation to regulate the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) under the Mental Health Act.
Speaking of a report due in May, Mr Donnelly told RTE Radio One: “It calls for the Mental Health Bill to be brought in quickly and Secretary Butler and I are looking into that and considering the interim report.
“One of the reasons the system is under so much pressure at the moment is that youth mental health referrals have increased by 33 per cent since Covid.
“The system responded well and increased the number of newly treated patients by 21 percent.
“But a one-third increase in demand in a very short space of time has put the system under tremendous pressure.”
Plans to abolish the charges were widely welcomed by politicians after they were first put forward by the Irish Cancer Society.
Green Party health spokeswoman Neasa Hourigan TD said: “The average inpatient in an acute care hospital stays between 5 or 6 days.
“This entails significant costs, which often arise at a difficult time. By eliminating these costs, patients can focus on physical recovery rather than worrying about financial worries.”
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