400pc rise in number of people getting HSE treatment abroad
The number of people in Ireland skipping our lengthy hospital treatment queues by having HSE-funded operations performed abroad has soared by 400pc.
Since June of last year, new EU rules allow public patients an automatic right to have most treatments in another member country and be reimbursed for the cost by their own health service at home.
Already this year, patients from Ireland have travelled to the UK, including Northern Ireland, as well as France, Czechoslovakia and Poland for treatments worth up to €20,000, the winter meeting of the Irish College of General Practitioners was told over the weekend.
Catherine Donohoe, who heads the HSE's National Contact Point for the service, said that reimbursement requests had risen by 400pc when comparing June to December 2014 to January to July this year.
Treatments carried out abroad include hip replacements, cataract surgery and general surgery.
Several patients have gone to private hospitals in Northern Ireland, where many children from the Republic are also availing of orthodontic treatment.
"Over the last few months, awareness of the directive has been growing," Ms Donohoe told the gathering. The number of invoices went up from just 16 in the last seven months of last year to 80 from January to July.
She explained that the HSE had introduced an application process, so that people would know in advance how much they would get back.
"For people who are willing to go further than Northern Ireland or the UK, it is really affordable. The costs in Czechoslovakia and Poland are a fraction of what they are here."
People can get reassurance about the quality of treatment by getting a letter of referral from their GP to a named doctor abroad.
The scheme will cost the HSE around €1m this year.