HSE paid for just 62 patients to have treatment abroad
The UK and Poland were the most popular destinations for people from Ireland who have so far availed of a scheme allowing them have treatment abroad with the HSE picking up the bill.
The EU Cross Border Health Directive has allowed 62 people from the Republic to be treated abroad from June last year to the end of May. Anyone can apply as long as they are referred by a doctor. Travel costs are not included.
The HSE said yesterday that orthopaedics and surgery were the main areas of medical treatment involved. It also involved seven people availing of psychiatric treatment abroad last year.
Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes said a report has shown poor take-up of the scheme across the EU, including Ireland. He intends to try to raise awareness.
"This European law allows a patient to avail of healthcare in a public or private facility in another EU country. You can recoup the costs of the treatment from the HSE. This has the potential to reduce waiting times for basic procedures.
"Clearly not enough patients or doctors know about the directive which was transposed into Irish law over 12 months ago."
The HSE now has a central office to operate the scheme at St Canice's Hospital in Kilkenny which people can contact. Patients must locate the health facility abroad themselves.
The HSE said it has seen a 590pc rise in queries about the scheme in the first four and a half months of 2015 compared to the first seven months of its operation last year.
The HSE has €1m to spend on the scheme. However, in 2013 it reimbursed just €130,000.
A spokeswoman said awareness has been growing substantially in recent months.