HSE paid for six patients to undergo sex-change operations abroad in 2015
The Health Service Executive paid for six patients to undergo sex-change operations in 2015
59 public patients have now undergone sex-change surgery under the Treatment Abroad Scheme, according to records released under the Freedom of Information Act, obtained by the Irish Examiner.
The procedure is considered a treatment for Gender Identity Disorder and involves hormone therapy and reconstructing genitals to resemble those of the opposite sex.
Gender reassignment surgery is not performed in Irish hospitals but it can be arranged in another country and funded by the Health Service Executive (HSE) under the Treatment Abroad Scheme.
Based on pricing data provided by the HSE, the cost of funding public patients to undergo sex-change operations abroad has amounted to €1.8million.
According to the HSE, the average cost of an assessment and the associated surgery is approximately €30,200 - although the cost of female-to-male operations is considerably higher than male-to-female procedures.
Last year health chiefs spent almost €170,000 last year for four patients to have sex change operations abroad.
In 2013 five patients travelled abroad for the treatment, while the year before 12 public patients availed of the scheme.
The HSE said the volume of requests for gender reassignment surgery each year would not support the provision of a specialised service in Ireland.
"Clinical decision making determines whether or not someone is put forward for this procedure under the Treatment Abroad Scheme," it stated.
"Therefore, each of the patients who availed of the treatment did so by way of clinical referral from their treating physician in Ireland, as per the guidelines.
"The scheme allows an Irish-based consultant to refer a patients normally resident in Ireland for treatment."
The number of people who identify as transgender in Ireland is around 50,000.