A CORK city woman who is travelling to Turkey for gastric sleeve surgery today has criticised the lack of certainty over whether she will be able to travel directly home to Cork in the aftermath of her medical procedure.
The 39-year-old, who wishes to remain anonymous, is scheduled to return to Ireland within days of her surgery but has received no formal confirmation that she will be exempt from mandatory quarantine on her return.
Turkey remains on the red list with the Irish Government, which means passengers coming to Ireland from Turkey are subject to mandatory hotel quarantine.
There are limited exemptions from the requirement to complete quarantine and these include patients travelling to Ireland for urgent medical reasons. But the woman says the fact that she has been unable to get confirmation that she will be allowed straight home is a huge worry.
“I am worried that when I arrive back in Dublin they will put me into hotel quarantine for two weeks as Turkey is currently on the red list,” she said.
The sensitive nature of the proposed medical procedure and family commitments at home also ensures her presence is required at home in Cork, she said.
“I want to recuperate at home if possible. I have a small child who is autistic.
“I couldn’t leave him for that length of time.
“People have gone into hotel quarantine and their needs have not been catered for. I will be arriving home with stitches and I will have to be very careful in my rehabilitation.
“I would totally understand the need for hotel quarantine if I was going on a holiday. I will be coming back stiff and sore. I have letters from the hospital to say that I should quarantine at home and be near my GP. Being at home is the safest and best place for me,” she added.
Her medical procedure has been cancelled a few times now for various reasons.
The woman, who has saved up for the surgery, said getting this surgery now will be hugely beneficial for her long-term health.
“It would change my life. I am currently getting an injection for my breathing and this surgery will be vital. I am hoping that by Christmas my quality of life will be so much better.
“I have been in hospital six times in the last year. I am on steroids every three weeks. I have three inhalers to take. I am constantly on antibiotics.
“There are some days I can’t get up the stairs or get out of bed. My oxygen levels go down and I am lightheaded. I could be waiting a couple of years to get this surgery done in Ireland. I don’t know what my health will be like by then. It costs €15,000 to get it done in Ireland and €3,500 to get it done in Turkey,” she said.
Cork TD Thomas Gould has called on the Minister for Health to establish a pre-clearance procedure for those travelling for time-sensitive, necessary medical procedures to ensure they are exempt from hotel quarantine.
“This lady is in desperate need of gastric sleeve surgery. I’ve contacted the Department of Health and the Minister’s office but have been informed that only a liaison officer on her return to Dublin airport can tell her definitely if she’s exempt from hotel quarantine.
“Verbally, they’re telling me this will be fine but she needs it in writing,” he said.
Deputy Gould said people travelling for medical reasons need a clear answer. “She can’t afford the time or cost of two weeks in a hotel and will need to be at home as she’ll be recovering from surgery.
“For people travelling for surgery, the possibility of hotel quarantine will prove a massive barrier. The exemption was put in place to prevent this but without a clear answer, many people won’t be able to travel for necessary medical procedures,” he added.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health told The Echo: “The Department of Health continues to review the mandatory quarantine policy.
“In the interests of protecting confidentiality, the Department does not comment on individual cases.”