Sunday 19 January 2020

'I had operation in the North and the HSE paid me back'

Deborah Lennon Sheils. Photo: Arthur Carron
Deborah Lennon Sheils. Photo: Arthur Carron
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Dubliner Deborah Lennon Sheils had a hip operation in the private Kingsbridge Hospital in Northern Ireland, under the Cross Border Healthcare Directive, and now wants to spread the word to others who are struggling on waiting lists.

She took out a loan and paid upfront for the operation, but was later reimbursed by the HSE.

If Brexit triggers, patients like Ms Sheils could no longer enjoy the convenience of travelling to Northern Ireland or Britain for the service and will be forced further afield in Europe.

"My son lives in England and I thought it would be great to find a hospital close to him with the UK being still in the EU," she said. "Then I thought, why take flights for such a big operation when you have everything only an hour-and-30-minutes away from you?"

Mark Regan, chief executive of Kingsbridge Hospital, said: "Making that short journey means patients, who are often in needless pain, are accessing NHS and Royal College trained specialists while the HSE covers the majority, if not all, the costs.

"Yes, of course you need to pay for the treatment before the surgery but with Credit Unions and banks so keen to lend these days, finding the money before the HSE refunds the patient isn't usually a barrier.

"In some cases we've had employers offer to bridge that gap, allowing staff on long-term sick to borrow the money in order to get the help they need and pay it back once reimbursed.

"The scheme has been a lifeline for countless numbers of patients from the Republic. We have seen patients come for minor treatment such as eye cataract surgery right through to complex spinal and hip or knee surgery.

"The distance patients have travelled is equally as diverse, with an 89-year-old coming from Cork for hip surgery through to those in the Border counties of Louth, Monaghan and Cavan."

Irish Independent

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