PEOPLE from Clare are jetting off to the sun for surgery in a bid to avoid long waiting lists in Ireland. An organisation which works alongside the HSE to facilitate surgery abroad, have said the service is particularly popular with Clare residents, confirming they have helped 24 people in the county access treatment in Europe under the EU Cross-Border directive.
Among them is well known Ennis business man Ken O’Grady who flew to Spain for an operation after being told he would have to wait four years for surgery here in Ireland.
Ken has said he was amazed to discover he could fly to Alicante on Spain’s Costa Blanca to get the operation for free under the EU Cross Border Directive which allows patients here in Ireland to go to other EU countries for healthcare.
The cost of his operation at the Vithas hospital in Alicante was reimbursed by the HSE after he called Healthcare Abroad Ireland.
Mr O’Grady, owner of the MGM Training and Driving School in Ennis, said, “The pain I was suffering was excruciating. I was literally having to drag my right leg behind me.
“I tried to get to see someone about it and was told I would have to wait between four and six months for a consultation and it could be four years before I could have an operation in Ireland.
“That would have been a disaster. I own and run a driving school business and being unable to drive was awful; being out of action for four years would have been completely untenable.”
The businessman heard from a friend that he could go abroad to have the operation instead and called Healthcare Abroad Ireland.
“I was completely blown away,” said Ken.
“I called Healthcare Abroad and I was given a surgery date straight away for the following week. Their staff met me at Alicante airport and took me to the superb Maya Alicante hotel for the night. It’s right beside the town’s famous Santa Barbara Castle.
“I had the consultation the next day and a day later I was in surgery and had my knee replaced. What was really good about the experience was the rehab which followed, which is always nicer to do when the weather is so good.
“Two weeks later I was able to walk in without crutches to see a physio back home in Clare for a check-up and she was amazed. I was able to walk unaided, and just as importantly the excruciating pain had gone.”
Ken urged anyone on a waiting list for an operation in Clare to get in touch with him.
“I’d be happy to talk through my experience which was first class from start to finish,” he said.
“You actually don’t even need to be on a waiting list. You just need a referral from your GP. It is so simple. Anyone who can’t afford the initial costs can have that paid by the local credit union, and then the HSE reimburses the credit union.
“I was in University Hospital Limerick in November unfortunately for an unrelated condition and it was utter chaos there. As far as I am concerned the more people who can go elsewhere for treatment, the better for everyone.”
A Healthcare Abroad spokesperson said, “We are delighted that Ken made such a quick recovery after his surgery. We want to wish him all the best for the future.”
The spokesperson added, “Our services have been particularly popular with County Clare residents, with ease of access to Alicante out of Shannon airport with two flights every week and a flight time of two and a half hours. All our patients are provided with private transfers from Alicante airport to their hotels and private transfers between hotels and appointments.
“We are also aware of long waiting lists for surgery at the moment in Ireland, and this is often the reason why patients decided to avail of the EU Cross-Border directive.”