HSE spent €170k on sex-change ops in 2014
Health chiefs spent almost €170,000 last year for patients to have sex change operations abroad.
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.
The procedure is considered a treatment for Gender Identity Disorder and involves reconstructing genitals to resemble those of the opposite sex.
Last year, the HSE paid for 32 visits to hospitals outside of the State for treatments and procedures that allowed public patients to change their gender.
Up to four patients availed of the treatment last year at a total cost of €166,543.
This included €4,986 for travel expenses and €161,557 for clinical services related to the procedure.
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.
More than 50 public patients have now undergone sex-change surgery under the Treatment Abroad Scheme.
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.