A 60-year-old Mayfield man has spoken about travelling to Spain to have cataracts removed from both eyes in two days.
With optometrists warning this week that over 42,300 people are awaiting eye care in the State, some cataract patients are choosing to fly to one of the world’s leading eye clinics in Spain rather than wait.
Independent Cork South West TD Michael Collins has been helping to ferry patients to the North for over five years, and his service – dubbed Belfast or Blind – has helped almost 4,000 people in that time.
However, with some people not wishing to make what might be multiple bus journeys there for treatment, some pensioners are now voting with their passports to jump four-year HSE waiting lists and getting double cataract surgeries in Alicante in the same week.
Patients travelling to Spain with one Irish healthcare company pay €2,000 per eye, with the HSE reimbursing €1,720 per eye.
Healthcare Abroad helps patients to use the EU Cross Border Directive to access state-of the art treatments and hospitals across Europe.
Billy Sheehan, a former general operative with Cork City Council, toldhe had travelled to Spain with Healthcare Abroad and had both cataracts removed in just two days.
“I went to see the consultant on the Monday, had one operation on the right eye on the Tuesday and the left eye on the Wednesday. It was unbelievable. I was only there for three days,” Mr Sheehan said.
“My eyes were very cloudy beforehand. I rang Healthcare Abroad and was out in Alicante within a week. They did all my paperwork and arranged a loan from the credit union.
“I had already had my hip replaced six months earlier through the same organisation. They were like angels to me,” he said.
“I didn’t want to go North two or three times. It was easier and faster and cheaper to go to Alicante.”
Patients are reimbursed most of the costs of surgery by the HSE under the EU Cross Border Directive, a law brought in across Europe in 2014 which allows all 450 million people in the European Union to access healthcare in another European country.