Cross border healthcare in ‘farcical’ situation

HSE and NHS patients are crossing border for same treatments, Oireachtas told

Elderly patients on both sides  are crossing the Border for the same healthcare and treatments. Photograph: iStock

Elderly patients on both sides are crossing the Border for the same healthcare and treatments. Photograph: iStock


Elderly patients from Northern Ireland are travelling south for the same orthopaedic and eye treatments under the same EU scheme that residents in the State are crossing the Border to receive in the north, the Dáil and Seanad have heard.

“It doesn’t make sense that we have clinics and hospitals in Northern Ireland looking to get our patients and we have private hospitals in our State looking to get patients from Northern Ireland,” said Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith.

This “farcical” situation was also raised in the Seanad by Fianna Fáil member Paul Daly who asked “why can’t we do our own and they do theirs?”

Mr Smith put it to Minister for Health Simon Harris during Dáil question time that “surely the department, yourself or the HSE could pull this together”.

He was highlighting lengthy waiting times in his Cavan-Monaghan constituency for orthopaedic treatments.

Mr Smith said “we all have people coming to us who are obviously in pain and suffering and waiting assessment and told if they could go as private patients could have the proceeding without delay”.

Patients were going North to access services, and at the same time “in Belfast newspapers, there are advertisements from our private hospitals seeking patents from Northern Ireland to avail of the cross border directive”.

Under the directive, an eligible patient can pay for treatment in the North and be refunded by the HSE afterwards. A similar process applies to patients in the North with the National Health Service.

Mr Smith said if there is capacity in the State to have procedures carried out “let them be carried out here instead of people having to travel to Belfast or elsewhere in Northern Ireland, when there would be less cost if they were able to get those procedures undertaken in our own State”.

Mr Daly said he had been contacted by a friend whose uncle in Co Tyrone is on a six-month waiting list for cataracts surgery in the North.

“If he comes down here, he can get them done straightaway once he pays and he will then be refunded by the NHS, ” the Westmeath senator said.

People were getting treated on the day they travelled but he said “shipping people from one jurisdiction to another for health services is unbelievable.

“These people are generally elderly and it is a traumatic experience getting this procedure done,” he told the Seanad.

Mr Harris insisted progress had been made and the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) had €100 million in funding for next year, and that it would put measures in place once it received proposals from hospitals.

Mr Harris pointed out that the treatment fund had invested €1 million in Nenagh General Hospital to open a new cataract theatre for the mid-west and theatres were also opened in Bantry General Hospital.

He said they could be doing more in Cavan, Monaghan and elsewhere but he said the treatment purchase fund needed the proposals from the various hospital groups, to which they would respond positively.