Taxpayer to pick up bill for breast implant removal
Funds that were earmarked for public patients enduring long delays on hospital waiting lists are to be used to pay for women who want to have their breast implants checked or removed, it emerged last night.
The taxpayer will have to pick up the bill for the care of hundreds of women fitted with the controversial PIP breast implants by private cosmetic clinics.
However, the money will have to come out of the National Treatment Purchase Fund, which was set up to help needy public patients enduring long delays for surgery such as hip operations.
The most recent figures for inpatient and day surgery show that 58,626 public patients are facing hospital delays of over a year in some cases.
The Department of Health, which gave the commitment to the women, admitted last night it does not know what the eventual cost will be. "These details will be worked out between now and September. The department will, however, try to recoup the costs involved," said a spokesman.
The decision to divert some of the money from the €70m fund followed a strong campaign by many of the 1,500 Irish women who were fitted with the gel meant for mattresses.
The Harley Medical Group, which carried out most of the operations here, last night refused to comment on whether it would contribute to the cost and it is expected to walk away from the scandal.
Studies have found the industrial-grade silicone poses no health risk.
However, any woman fitted with the implants is to be offered a consultation with a plastic surgeon, a scan if required and removal of the implants if "clinically necessary".
Many of the women who attended Clane Hospital or the Shandon Clinic have already had them removed and others have paid for it privately.
But the Harley Medical Group, where most of the 1,500 women were fitted with PIP implants from the now defunct French company Poly Implant Prosthese, has failed to provide an appropriate care package.
"The department (of health) is not satisfied that the Harley Medical Group will fulfil their obligations in an acceptable manner," said chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan.
"It has been decided that necessary care required by the affected recipients of these implants should be made available via an alternative route."
The PIP Action Group has yet to respond to the offer but it falls short of their demand for replacement of the implants.
The implants have ruptured in 189 of the women -- around 9.84pc.
"The chief medical officer met with the clinics to attempt to ensure that best practice and patient support was paramount in the service provided to concerned recipients of PIP implants," said the department.