Irish patients should have access to Private Hospitals

The Private Hospitals Association(PHA) has said it is perverse that Irish patients waiting on treatment can use private hospitals abroad under a HSE refund scheme but aren’t allowed to use ones in the Republic.

Simon Nugent, CEO of the PHA, said the Minister for Health should change the HSE Policy and allow every patient seeking approval for treatment abroad to be first offered treatment here instead in our private hospital system.

“Hospital waiting lists have reached all-time highs, with 1 in 8 people in Ireland (570,000) currently awaiting some form of hospital treatment. 14,000 Irish patients joined the queue since March this year alone,” Mr Nugent said.

“There is a network of 19 private hospitals dotted throughout the country that could make substantial in-roads into these waiting list numbers. It is perverse that waiting patients are being urged by the State to seek treatment abroad but not here. The HSE is spending increasing amounts of money under the Cross-Border Directive treating patients elsewhere in the EU. Bizarrely, the only private hospitals in Europe where patients are not entitled to be treated are those in Ireland. You can choose Milan or Munich, Bristol or Budapest but if you go to any private hospital across Ireland you won’t be refunded by the HSE.

“Private hospitals here seek parity under the HSE scheme. With the Cross-Border Treatment Directive, the HSE will only refund the bills from a private or public hospital in an EU country up to the cost of doing the procedure in a public hospital in Ireland. The Minister for Health should instruct the HSE to simply apply the same rule within Ireland. Member states are not required by the EU to apply the Cross-Border Directive in their home country but neither do they forbid it.

“It is unfair to patients to force them to go abroad, opening them to health risks too. The distance between home and where the procedure occurred is a clinical risk particularly if there are complications or a need for readmission. Patients requiring subsequent visits to the hospital abroad must apply again to the Scheme. Language barriers, minor variations in medical practice and cultural differences add to the risks. Arranging flights and transfers amounts to added stress for patients. There’s also an equity barrier – treatment overseas favours younger and wealthier people as costs must be paid up front before being reimbursed by the HSE,” Mr Nugent warned.


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