IrelandIt’s been a couple years since the World Tour visited the Emerald Isle and with dramatic improvements occurring in that country’s economy, we decided to hop an Aer Lingus flight and re-examine the medical equipment service industry in Ireland.

The Republic of Ireland is roughly the size of West Virginia. It has three types of hospitals: health board hospitals, voluntary hospitals and private ones. There are eight public health boards and each controls the hospitals and medical services within its local region. “Voluntary” or independent

hospitals receive public funding but are managed independently. There is a small but growing number of private hospitals which emerged in the late 1980s.

Frank Kirrane, a physicist at the University College Hospital in Galway, says many hospitals have an in-house biomed department and some University-based facilities have a medical physics and bioengineering department, which may conduct research and provide service support in the hospital. Independent service groups are very rare except for medical equipment dealers working for the manufacturer.

Kirrane also reports that the biomed industry is still finding its niche. Job titles and educational standards are in flux. Most clinical engineers have a three-year degree combined with some professional training.

Currently, the Biomedical Engineering Association of Ireland is the strongest advocate for the industry.

While the economy is improving, cost containment issues are becoming more prevalent. The Irish medical equipment market sits just under $200 million with an estimated annual growth of 5 percent, according to a report from Tradeport.

But at the end of the rainbow, the National Development Plan 2000-2006 published in 1999 by the Irish government says more money will flow into healthcare, with new facilities planned.

Medical lasers and endoscopes are in demand. The vast majority of medical equipment is imported from the U.S. and other European countries, and imports are flowing freely because Ireland is used as an EU distribution point by many international suppliers. American manufacturers hold a strong reputation and account for 36 percent of the equipment imported or roughly $79 million annually. There are no import restrictions on goods from the U.S.