Irish MEP Marian Harkin has said the EU Cross Border Healthcare Directive might “help ease” Donegal’s outpatient waiting list.

Concerns have been raised over outpatient waiting lists at Letterkenny General Hospital.
Concerns have been raised over outpatient waiting lists at Letterkenny General Hospital.

Recent figures have shown that 13,303 people are on a waiting list in Letterkenny General Hospital.

The MEP said this was an “unacceptable situation” for all those people in need of treatment.

She added: “In this context I am suggesting that some of those people might be able to take advantage of a new piece of EU legislation - The Cross Border Healthcare Directive. The Directive has been transposed into Irish law from June 1st, 2014 and it provides an opportunity for patients who need treatment and who are waiting for an unreasonable length of time to access treatment abroad - maybe in Northern Ireland or the U.K. under certain conditions. I am not saying this will suit everybody, it won’t, but for some it may provide an answer.”

The MEP said she was “well aware that the vast majority of people want treatment as close to home as possible but at least this new regulation may give people a choice.”

She said: “The HSE is obliged to provide information to patients about their rights in relation to accessing cross border healthcare, but in general, patients can go from Ireland to another Member State for treatment and get reimbursed for it provided; the cost is not greater than it would be in Ireland; the procedure is medically justified and is not available within a reasonable period of time; the treatment is available in Ireland and the patient would be entitled to the treatment in Ireland in the first place.”

She added that in certain cases it would be necessary to get prior authorisation from the HSE, for example, where treatment involves hospital accommodation of the person for at least one night or certain other restrictions such as quality of care, risk to the patient or public, or the need for highly specialised and cost intensive medical infrastructure or equipment.

“If cross border treatment is refused there is an appeal system and according to the legislation Member States will need to explain why such a decision is necessary and will need to base their assessment of what is medically justifiable in an individual case,” she concluded.