A CREDIT union manager has strongly criticised a healthcare initiative that forces older people to take out loans.
Finbarr O’Shea, who is the manager of Bantry Credit Union, said he felt compelled to respond to a recent article in The Southern Star in which a 67-year old man expressed his concerns about the delay in being reimbursed €11,500 by the HSE for a hip replacement operation he had in Belfast.
Mr O’Shea said there was something inherently wrong in forcing elderly people – some of whom have never borrowed in their lives – to go to their credit union, go through the whole loan application procedure, enter into a legal contract, and then pay loan interest on top of that.
He asked: ‘Why isn’t the HSE dealing directly with the private hospital in Belfast, and the hospital then invoicing the HSE?’ he asked.
He also suggested: ‘Cut out the middle man, cut out the credit union, and have the HSE deal directly with the hospitals.’
Mr O’Shea confirmed that Bantry Credit Union has, in the past 12 months, issued 12 loans to people travelling to Belfast for procedures and operations under the EU Cross Border Healthcare Directive.
He said loans ranging from between €1,500 for cataract operations up to €13,000 for hip replacements have been issued to people who are primarily elderly, and includes some people that have never borrowed in their lives.
The HSE is supposed to reimburse people within 30 days but there are now delays of three months or more.
The HSE says this is due to a lack of manpower to administer the payments.
Mr O’Shea said this has resulted in older people having to pay interest on their loans. He gave one example of a person who borrowed €13,000 and had to wait six months before he received the payment from the HSE.
‘That person paid €550 in loan interest,’ said Mr O’Shea, who is of the opinion that they ‘should not be making any financial contribution, certainly not a contribution that only arose because the State wasn’t able to give them the service closer to home.’