DISAPPOINTED: Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae pictured with Ann McGillicuddy from Tiernaboul who are both disappointed that the Cross Border Directive in Northern Ireland is to end next month. Photo: Michelle Crean
“It’s changed my life”
Disgust as Northern Ireland Cross Border Directive to end
By Michelle Crean
One Killarney lady who had a “life-changing” cataract operation through the Cross Border Directive in Northern Ireland in September has this week joined with Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae to urgently call for the service to remain.
Ann McGillicuddy from Tiernaboul was rapidly losing her sight in both eyes, but thankfully after taking two trips to Belfast on the bus arranged through TD Danny Healy-Rae, she’s had her sight restored – allowing her to resume daily activities such as driving and reading.
This week, after hearing news that the service is to end from January 1, she said that she was disappointed as “it’s a very invaluable service” which “changed” her life.
“If the bus wasn’t there I would have gone blind,” she told the Killarney Advertiser. “It’s life-changing – what the people are doing there is fantastic. That bus is essential for people that can’t wait.”
Deputy Healy-Rae has been organising the bus trips to Kingsbridge Private Hospital in Belfast since November 2017 when he teamed up with Cork Independent TD Michael Collins. Since then, he says that over 2,000 people have availed of the trips to have eye surgery, hip replacements and other procedures which would otherwise see them waiting up to three years on the public system in the Republic. They then have the costs refunded under the scheme.
Patients who have already started their journey will be able to continue these but no new patients will be accepted after January 1, 2021.
Mr Healy-Rae said that he is “disgusted and horrified” that the service is to end and that Taoiseach Micheál Martin “is playing politics”.
“There is a certain amount of jealously by Fianna Fáil on the success of what we’re doing with the bus,” Deputy Healy-Rae told the Killarney Advertiser yesterday (Thursday).
“It looks to me like a calculated effort by Fianna Fáil.”
He explained that Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he has plans to open a place in Cork – however Mr Healy-Rae is deeply concerned that this will take a long time to get up and running – with people suffering in the meantime – or worse lose their sight.
“He [Micheál Martin] has said that he is setting up some place in Cork but nothing has been done yet – people will go blind in the meantime. The first bus I took up, a man was waiting six years. Others weren’t so successful because they had been waiting so long. You lose the sight if you don’t do it in time.”
The cross-border cataract surgeries led to an angry spat between TDs Danny and Michael Healy-Rae with Micheál Martin in the Dáil just last month after the Taoiseach said; “I was reliably informed that Deputy Healy-Rae approached people outside of Mass to say I can get you on the bus I can get you a cataract”.
Michael Healy-Rae angrily responded “Goddammit that’s an awful thing to say”.
Danny said that he is “glad to have started the service in Kerry”.
“It’s the one thing I feel proud of whatever else I have achieved – to save peoples’ sight and see that they are no longer in pain. If people are left behind in pain I’m hurt by that. Myself and Michael Collins are putting pressure on them [Government] but they don’t seem to care. I urge anyone waiting to be called for the procedure to contact me for a place on one of the last buses.”
Phone: 064 6685315, 087 997 5419 or 087 2316055.
Mark Regan, CEO at Kingsbridge Private Hospitals in Sligo & Belfast said:
“We have been getting a significant increase in the number of patients calling our hospitals very worried that “access” to the Cross Border Directive will stop on December 31 2020.
“While the HSE has not issued any formal guidance to us, many of those concerned are patients that are already booked for hip, knee or cataract surgery or were hoping to engage in further surgery via the initiative next year, for their other eye for example. So you can imagine their anguish.
“Kingsbridge in Belfast is one of the most popular destinations for patients on the island to avail of the EU directive and over the last few years we have already treated over 2000 patients from Kerry and Cork. The general theme and feedback that we are getting from patients is that they don’t see why they, as Irish citizens should be disadvantaged and forced to travel off the island to mainland Europe due to Britain’s decision to leave the EU.
“In the meantime we are just informing patients, and the public at large, that anyone who books their consultation before December 31, will qualify for treatment in 2021.”
For further information on the Cross Border Healthcare Directive at Kingsbridge go to www.kingsbridgeprivatehospital.com/Cross-Border-Patients/EU-Healthcare-Directive or call the Cross Border Team on 048 90 688858.