Fine Gael MEP urges Irish patients to travel for treatment

Fine Gael MEP for Ireland South, Deirdre Clune urged Irish patients to make use of the EU Cross Border Health Care Directive

A Fine Gael MEP has called for patients on Irish waiting lists to avail of an EU scheme to obtain medical treatment outside the state.

The crisis over waiting times in the Irish health sector was brought into sharp focus earlier this month when an RTÉ investigation revealed that waiting lists could be significantly longer than previously thought.

More than 81,000 patients were included on the official inpatient/daycase waiting list as published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) on December 30th last year.

However the RTÉ report uncovered evidence showing that there are at least two other waiting lists that are not published by the NTPF.

Both of the additional lists - the ‘pre-planned list’ and the ‘pre-admit list’ - contain thousands of extra names.

EU Cross Border Health Care Directive

This afternoon Fine Gael MEP for Ireland South, Deirdre Clune encouraged Irish patients to make use of the EU Cross Border Health Care Directive - which allows those on waiting lists to get treatment in another EU jurisdiction and receive reimbursement from the state.

Speaking from the European Parliament in Strasbourg, she said that for many patients the scheme would allow them to procure treatment in Belfast with the HSE obliged to foot the bill.

She warned that the scheme does not include travel expenses.

Ms Clune said figures revealed to her by the HSE show that only 1,303 people availed of the scheme in 2016.

“I welcome the significant increase in the amount of people availing of the Cross Border Directive in 2016 but the numbers still only represent a fraction of those on waiting lists who may be entitled to avail of the scheme,” she said.

“HSE figures show that they spent over €2.2 million in 2016 on patients who have opted to have their procedures in another EU country and get the HSE to pay for it.

“That’s an average payment of over €6,700 per inpatient treatment and €585 on average for each outpatient treatment.”

She said any public patient with a referral letter from their GP or consultant is entitled to avail of the scheme.

The scheme is separate to the 'travel abroad scheme,' which is limited to patients whose treatment is either not available in Ireland or where there are delays accessing care in Ireland.

She said the cross-border scheme is not limited to patients on waiting lists and covers most areas of healthcare, “including acute hospital procedures, dental care, speech and language therapy, as well as physiotherapy, disability and mental health services.”

Ashamed and Heartbroken

Responding the waiting list revelations earlier this month, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris said he is “ashamed and heartbroken” by the ordeal facing patients on waiting lists around the country.

He has promised to get under the bonnet of the HSE and has requested a new action plan from the executive to deal with the situation.

He said HSE managers will be sacked if they do not ‘measure up and do their job.’