Following appeals from Mr Durkan and other campaigners calling for the extension of the provision, the Health Minister has announced a further funding allocation of £5 million with applications being accepted from today, July 1, 2022.
The scheme replaced the EU Healthcare Directive which ended as a direct consequence of Brexit in 2020. However, Mr Durkan has called for a long term solution to tackle Northern Ireland’s dire health waiting lists.
Said the Foyle MLA: “The extension of this scheme is welcome, however, I fear a series of complications including reduced capacity and increasing healthcare costs in the south has limited the effectiveness of this initiative.
“It is important to note that neither the EU Directive and nor the Republic of Ireland Reimbursement Scheme, are ideal avenues to begin with.
“Essentially, patients have been left with no other option but to apply to these schemes to access treatment elsewhere given the dire and persistent lengthy waiting lists across the North.
“Patients are still required to pay upfront for any procedure under this initiative, costs of procedures are constantly going up in the south due to supply and demand.
“Yet the subsidy remains stagnant resulting in a bigger shortfall.
“In not keep step with rising costs, applicants to this scheme face being priced out of availing of assistance.
“Never mind a two-tier health system, this approach creates a three-tier system whereby fast-track treatment is only available to those in a financial position to get it.”
Mr Durkan added: “It is clear this sticking-plaster approach to healthcare is losing its grip. We must look at increasing capacity here to begin with.
“The Department must look at cost differentials going forward, to ensure the most viable option is determined.
“I hope the newly designated Elective Orthopaedic Hub based at the Western Trust will help tackle regional waiting lists for elective procedures.
“Attentions must be focused on securing a long term solution, one which takes a collaborative approach to cross border healthcare to tackle our dire elective surgery waiting lists and maximise resources.
“A health service, free at the point of delivery must be protected at all costs.”Tags: