The local residents or visitors to Ireland (if they are holding European Health Insurance Cards) can enjoy free of charge maintenance and treatments in health service executive and the voluntary hospitals. If patient has payroll that is no more than the median income, they will receive free outpatient treatment as well. Otherwise, a subsidized hospital fee will be imposed.
Residents who are on welfare programs, drawing the less than average incomes, or those suffering from certain long-term or severe diseases are provided with the medical card -- which allows access to free GP visits, hospital care, dental services, optical and aural services, prescription drugs and medical appliances. Currently, 31.9% of the total population enjoys the benefits extended through the medical card, with many political figures advocating the idea of medical card to every resident in the country. Then those belonging to a slightly higher income bracket are entitled to GP visit card. This card makes sure of free GP visits. Additionally, a cash grant of 400 pound will be given out to people above 70 years and who do not enjoy the benefits of medical card or GP visit card.
As comprehensive as the public system is, there is a major flaw -- waiting list. This has become a hotly disputed issue in the country whereby serious operations have to put on hold because of lack of manpower or facilities. According to statistics in 2007, 76% of patients who required operations were admitted on the same day, 11% had to wait one month, 4% 3 months, 1% in about six months and 4% had to endure 6 months or longer.
However where the system is lacking, private healthcare providers have been quick to fill that niche. Equipped with adequate manpower and modern facilities, the private healthcare sector has been successful in drawing patients who do not want to wait on the public hospitals.