Plan is needed to ensure future of ‘Belfast Bus’

March 27th, 2021 7:05 AM

By Jackie Keogh

The ‘Belfast or blind’ bus to resume once Level 5 restrictions eased

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SENATORS who attended a committee meeting to examine the impact of Brexit on the EU Cross Border Healthcare Directive have called for a new scheme to be signed in to law as soon as possible.

West Cork Independent TD, Michael Collins explained that the original scheme – which allows people receive treatment outside the State and be reimbursed – ended when the UK left the EU on December 31st.

‘What the State have put in place is an agreement for this year, and this year only, but what we need now is a definitive, long-term healthcare scheme to replace the old one.

‘Without that there would be too much uncertainty and doubt for people in need of surgery.’

The committee was informed of the benefits of the scheme by representatives from the Department of Health, the HSE and the Permanent Defence Forces Representative Association.

Of particular concern to the people of West Cork is the Belfast bus, which is provided by Deputy Collins and Kerry TD Danny Healy Rae.

They bring people in need of cataract operations, or knee and hip surgery, to the Kingsbridge private hospital in Belfast.

Deputy Collins said the committee also discussed the difficulty patients are having in accessing bridging loans for surgery before their operation.

As reported in the past, in West Cork, bridging loans have been arranged with local credit unions but elsewhere people who are experiencing financial hardship do not put themselves forward for the scheme.

Deputy Collins said: ‘The State needs to step in and provide a financial bridging loan so that people in need are not left behind.’

He also said his ‘Belfast or Blind Bus’ will resume once the Level 5 restrictions are eased.

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