Belfast eye ops cost HSE €150k by April

Belfast eye ops cost HSE €150k by April
Michael Collins TD with a group from West Cork, Cork City and Kerry departing for Belfast for cataract surgery in January. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The HSE will have to pay an estimated €150,000 to Corkonians who underwent cataract surgery in Belfast by summer 2018.

More than 150 people from the Cork region will have made the eight hour trip to the North by the end of April, all of whom are eligible for reimbursement under the Cross Border Directive.

Almost €4.5 million was paid out under the initiative in 2017 after 2,011 people travelled abroad for surgery of some nature.

Independent TD for West Cork, Michael Collins who has helped organise the trips, said the directive is a solution but there are far better ones that need to be discussed.

“This is money that should be spent on services down here in Cork and Kerry and across the country to prevent people from having to travel hundreds of miles for procedures,” he said.

“The Cross Border Directive is a solution to the waiting lists but there are better ways.

“Use that money to pay staff to carry out these surgeries in Bantry and Mallow and across Cork,” he added.

“For some reason, this government appear happy to send people abroad for surgeries.” 

Deputy Collins was among those who organised buses to take people to Belfast for cataract surgery in the ‘Belfast or Blind’ initiative which began in October 2017.

“All of the people we’ve brought up to Belfast have been reimbursed 99.9% of what they paid,” he said.

“We’ve had great support from Credit Unions across Cork who are loaning people the necessary €1,500 or so and then getting it back when the HSE pay up.” 

According to the HSE, the reimbursement rate for a cataract day procedure is €1,418 or €1,184 depending on the DRG (Diagnosis Related Group) code specific to the procedure provided.

The treating consultant abroad identifies the DRG code for the procedure he/she has provided and reimbursement is as per the costs to the public healthcare system in Ireland for that DRG coded treatment.

The HSE have paid out almost €6.5 million for different surgeries under the directive since 2014, with a rise of almost €3 million between 2016 and 2017.

“As well as cataract surgeries, we’ve been sending people up, not on the buses, for hip, knee and carpal tunnel surgery,” revealed Deputy Collins.

“The Belfast hospitals are inundated with requests, they almost can’t cope with the demand.” More people will be forced to travel abroad for treatments, according to Mr Collins, leading to an increase in “wasted money.” He revealed that he regularly receives up to five calls a day or more from people seeking cataract surgery in Belfast.

“I constantly have people calling to see if they can get to Belfast for surgery,” he said.

“Some are young and others are elderly who may be in desperate need of surgery and are forced to travel miles and miles for a simple procedure.

“The Cross Border Directive, while a good option, is not good enough and a better one needs to be discussed,” he added.

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