The government, through the Ministry of Health and eight regional boards, provides health services in Ireland and funding to non-profit agencies that provide health services. These non-profit agencies include major hospitals and national church organizations, as well as small, community-based support groups. The government finances health care with tax revenue. There are also many private hospitals and clinics in Ireland.

Health examinations, appointments at child welfare clinics and tuberculosis treatment are available to everyone free of charge. Children throughout Ireland receive free hospital care until the age of 16. Other services are available for a fee. The size of the fee depends on the individual's income. People with little or no income receive most health care services free of charge. People in the middle-income group, such as insured workers, are entitled to free maternity and child welfare services and to some free hospital and specialist services. The better-off usually pay for private medical and hospital services. People who suffer from long-term health problems may qualify for state subsidies to cover the cost of medication.

Diseases of the circulatory system, such as heart disease, are the leading causes of death in Ireland. They account for 42% of all deaths. Many Irish people smoke and cancers of the respiratory system have almost doubled in the last 30 years. The government recently established the National Breast Screening Program in response to a dramatic increase in the incidence of breast cancer. With this new program, women in the at-risk age group will receive a mammogram every two years.

   Did you know?
The Irish have made many contributions to medicine. In 1847, Robert MacDonnell became the first doctor to anaesthetize a patient before surgery. Francis Rynd (1801-61) invented the hypodermic syringe, which allowed doctors to give morphine by injection rather than by mouth.