BREXIT could put a stop to the cataract buses heading north, according to Independent TD Michael Collins.
Speaking to The Southern Star before the 14th bus is due to travel to the Kingsbridge private hospital in Belfast on Saturday, September 15th next, Deputy Collins said he and hospital administrators agree that the Cross Border Healthcare Directive could be a casualty of Brexit.
However, Deputy Collins and the administrators of both Kingsbridge and the Ulster Independent Hospital, believe there could be ‘a grace period’ of between 18 months to two years after the Brexit deal is done.
In the meantime, Deputy Collins confirmed that he has had meetings in Dublin with a company representing top hospitals in France, Spain and Germany who are effectively looking for the business he could put their way.
The deputy told The Southern Star: ‘I am happy to continue the journey to Belfast for as long as it is viable. But if all else fails, we will have to look at Germany, Spain and France. But, for now, that is just a fall-back option.’
The first cataract bus took the arduous journey north in December 2017 and the 13th bus returned on Sunday, August 26th carrying 16 more people – three from Cork, four from Kerry and nine from West Cork – who successfully had their cataracts treated at the Kingsbridge Hospital.
To date, Michael Collins said over 300 people – including those who ‘travelled under their own steam’ – have taken advantage of the Cross Border Healthcare Directive, which is ultimately covered by the Health Service Executive (HSE) because it reimburses patients about six weeks
after the operation.
‘Some people are also travelling for hip, knee, prostate and tonsil operations under the same scheme,’ said Deputy Collins, ‘but we don’t do a bus for them.
‘We merely open up the lines of communication.’
Michael Collins said: ‘No one can know, for certain, the outcome of Britain’s negotiations to leave the EU, but, at least, we have alternatives available to us.
‘I realise it would be very difficult to expect people in their 80 or 90s to fly abroad for a cataract operation and that a ferry journey might even be more arduous, but it might be the only option open to us.’
The Independent TD also stated: ‘No one in the HSE or any of the Government departments has contacted to ask if they could help in anyway way despite the fact that I have raised this issue with them on several occasions.’