All adult hospices to be state-funded

All adult hospices in Ireland will be fully state-funded from next month – Marymount Care Centre Cork, Milford Care Centre in Limerick, Galway Hospice and St Francis Hospice in Dublin are being redesignated from Section 39 to Section 38 status by the HSE. Section 38 organisations are fully-funded by the State and its employees are public servants.

Fundraising by the hospices will no longer be required to cover payroll and other operational costs such as electricity and heating.

Surgical hubs

Surgical hubs are being developed in six areas in Ireland. The intent is they will take pressure off day-case waiting lists by reducing waiting times in 2024. This is in advance of dedicated elective hospitals being opened. Here are some of the updates:

• Mount Carmel in South Dublin is currently being fitted out

• Swords in North Dublin has completed the tender process

• Galway has completed the tender process with contract to be awarded

• Cork- a planning application has been lodged at CUH

• Waterford – a planning application has been lodged at UHW

• Limerick – a planning application has been lodged at Scoil Carmel site.

Free contraception scheme now includes women up to age 31

A free contraception scheme is open from this month to women, girls and those identifying as transgender or non-binary, aged 17 to 31. The person must be ordinarily resident in Ireland and deemed suitable for prescription contraception.

Only 1 in 5 people who need hearing aids have them

Ireland has an extraordinarily high level of unmanaged hearing loss, according to Chime, the national charity for deaf and hard of hearing people. It is lobbying the Department of Health to develop a national hearing care plan to strengthen State support for those dealing with hearing loss and make sure that the hearing aid sector is regulated. At present, there is no regulatory framework, with hearing aids costing €3,000 per pair on average.

“If you are lucky enough to be able to afford hearing aids you enter an expensive, unregulated market with no clear pathway to health,” says Chime.

Hearing aid take up in Ireland is one third less than in the UK, per head of population. Unmanaged hearing loss can contribute to increased cases of dementia, depression and social isolation.

High uptake of home STI test kits

Some 10,000 home testing kits for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are being ordered every month from the HSE — 91,000 in total were ordered in 2022 and 100,000 up to the end of November 2023. The service provides individuals aged 17 and older with the option to test for STIs discreetly at home. Those with a reactive result, indicating a need for additional investigation or treatment, are referred to participating public STI clinics.

Since last November, individuals who test positive for chlamydia now have the option of an online prescription, reducing the number of referrals to clinics for treatment. Availability of the national home STI testing service has increased access to testing, removing potential barriers such as embarrassment, cost and time needed to travel to and attend a face-to-face service.

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NCBI becomes Vision Ireland

The National Council for the Blind in Ireland, established in 1931, has now changed its name to Vision Ireland. The name change is designed to be more inclusive of those with a wide range of visual impairments.

One in 17 Irish people are blind or have a vision impairment and Vision Ireland directly supports 7,000 people around the country, practically and emotionally, to live as independently as possible.

Gynaecological cancer red flags

Gynaecological cancers represent 12% of all female cancers. A new podcast series, Dr Doireann’s Podcast, shares the stories and first-hand experiences of those who have had a cancer diagnosis. They are joined by healthcare professionals, who provide expert advice and information about research advancements. It has been launched by the Irish Society for Gynaecological Oncology.

“This series is a must listen for all women,” says podcast host Dr Doireann O’Leary. “We discuss red flag symptoms never to ignore, how to ‘speak up’ and advocate for yourself in the oftentimes overwhelming healthcare setting. We say the ‘unsaids’.”

Did you know?

It is now an offence to sell a nicotine-inhaling product to anyone under the age of 18. The offence carries a penalty of a fine of up to €4,000 and/up to a six-month prison term.

One in seven people over 50 have chronic kidney disease in Ireland and 98% of those don’t know they have it (TCD research in association with the HSE using data from TILDA, The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing in Ireland).

Gardaí are being trained to administer the prescription-only medication Naloxone. It is used as an antidote to temporarily reverse the effects of opioid drugs like heroin, morphine, methadone and synthetic opioids if someone overdoses. For more information, visit

Safer sales of paracetamol by staff in pharmacy and non-pharmacy retail settings is planned in order to reduce the issue of paracetamol-related intentional drug overdose in Ireland

Early this year, the HSE will be piloting a first-of-its-kind health app for patients before a full roll-out later on. The app will allow people to store key documents like their medical card and European Health Insurance Card and can be used for hospital appointments, prescriptions and other services.

Those with complicated Type 2 Diabetes will now be referred by GPs to an integrated care hub for specialist diabetes care in their area to reduce referrals to acute hospitals. A national Diabetes Prevention Programme is also being rolled out for people who have pre-diabetes (abnormal glucose regulation).

Irish Life Health has announced the expansion of its female health specialist GP digital consultations service from the end of March.

Don’t forget that if you have enough PRSI contributions, you will be able to get free eye tests and standard glasses under the Optical Treatment Benefit Scheme. You will be able to check your optical benefits eligibility as well as your dental and hearing benefits if you have a MyGovID account. To create one, visit

GP Visit Cards — More people are now eligible for GP Visit Cards. They are means-tested for those aged between eight and 69 but the qualifying financial thresholds have increased, e.g. the weekly income threshold for a single person living alone has increased from €304 to €418 and the threshold for a couple without dependents has increased from €441 to €607. To apply, visit

Free menopause booklet from Mental Health Ireland

Mental Health Ireland has launched a new booklet on Menopause and Mental Health. It is designed to provide information as well as showcase the real experiences of people who have been affected by menopause and perimenopause.

Almost 390,000 women of the average perimenopausal and menopausal age (40-55) live in Ireland at present. Some of the potential mental health symptoms include panic attacks, low mood and depression, low self-esteem, insomnia and lack of motivation.

It is important to remember that the mental health changes that occur at this time are transitory and intermittent, says Mental Health Ireland.

The booklet can be downloaded for free from

Prostate cancer guide launched

An updated guide called Having Your Prostate Checked is now available from More than 3,300 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year and it is the second most common cause of cancer death in men in Ireland.

Maternal sepsis detection

A new study led by researchers at the University of Limerick (UL) has revealed a more effective way to diagnose maternal sepsis, a condition with a devastating global impact.

The new study of microbiology specimens used to investigate maternal sepsis has found that placental swabs can provide critical information for guiding antimicrobial treatment. These swabs are the most effective in detecting bacteria.

Maternal sepsis may occur during pregnancy or when a C-section incision, tear or other wound from childbirth becomes infected in the days or weeks after giving birth. The study was published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

Concussion study

The University of Limerick (UL) and UPMC, who owns several private hospitals in Ireland, are working together on an Irish Rugby Injury Surveillance (IRIS) project based in UL to advance knowledge and understanding related to the treatment of concussion.

The IRIS project tracks the incidence and nature of injury in amateur and schools’ rugby in Ireland.

The long-term aim is to improve the lives of athletes at all levels across Ireland and make sports safer by being able to understand, prevent and treat concussion better.

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