THE waiting time for people seeking reimbursement under the EU Cross-Border Healthcare Directive has doubled.
Independent TD Michael Collins, who has taken 1,000 patients on 40 buses to a private hospital in the North of Ireland for cataract operations, said he was ‘sickened by the news.’
Deputy Collins and Deputy Danny Healy Rae recently expanded the bus service to take people seeking consultations for hip and knee replacement at the Kingsbridge private hospital in the North.
One 67-year-old man from Goleen, Pat McCarthy of Gurthdobe, who paid €11,500 for a hip replacement 11 weeks ago, is still waiting for his Bantry Credit Union loan to be repaid by the HSE under the Cross-Border Directive.
Deputy Collins told The Southern Star: ‘The waiting time for payment is supposed to be 30 days. It normally takes about six weeks, but that has been stretched to three months.’
Deputy Collins, who deals with the HSE staff administering the scheme on an ongoing basis, said: ‘I think they are marvellous but there’s simply not enough of them.
‘They can’t cope with the demand and they cannot can’t cope with the explosion of numbers seeking to travel out of the State for treatment. The HSE needs to get its house in order because these people are generally our older and more vulnerable members of society.’
Michael Collins said he can see the health benefits of the service.
‘Take that man in Goleen, as an example,’ he said, ‘the surgery has taken 20 years off his life. He’s a new man.’
The HSE said the number of claims has increased from 1,000 three years ago, to 3,900 last year, and the cost of the scheme has increased from €2.5m to over €12m in the same timeframe.
The HSE apologised for the delay and pointed out that there are still over more than 2,500 applications to be processed.
They said the delay has been caused by a lack of manpower and the need for additional telephone lines to deal with people calling about the cross-border initiative.