Hospital waiting-list patients must travel further for EU-funded care
Published 25/06/2016 | 02:30
Irish public waiting-list patients who want to avail of the European Union scheme which refunds the cost of surgery and other treatments in the EU will have to travel further for their care as a result of Brexit.
Hospitals in Northern Ireland and the UK are currently favoured by patients from the Republic who avail of the scheme because of the proximity, language and familiarity.
Brexit will not affect the entitlement of patients in the Republic to the scheme.
However, it means they will have to incur the cost of travelling to other EU countries.
Under the scheme, the cost of the procedure or specialist appointment is paid upfront by the patient but then refunded by the HSE.
Other outlays such as plane costs and accommodation outside hospital are not covered.
The scheme is currently being availed of by a growing number of parents whose children have been on waiting lists for several years in the Republic for orthodontic treatment.
A spokesman for the Department of Health stressed that he would like to assure people that there would be no immediate changes in the area of health.
"Cross-border services and health cooperation between the UK and Ireland will not be affected in the immediate term by the UK's decision to leave the EU. Arrangements are in place, building on an already completed initial risk-assessment plan, to consider any longer-term implications of the referendum result.
"The terms of a British exit from the EU are unknown at this stage," the spokesman added.
"It is expected to take a minimum of two years of negotiations between all EU member states, including Ireland, to agree a new arrangement between the UK and the EU, and the Department of Health will be fully involved in these negotiations.
"Ensuring that there is minimum disruption in the area of health, and that essential services are maintained, will be our key priority."
It is still unclear how Brexit will affect entitlements for people from the Republic who travel to the UK and need to use their European health insurance card. This gives a tourist the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in another European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland.
The EHIC covers treatment that is medically necessary until their planned return home.