Cataract bus trips to Belfast in doubt

A Cross-Border Directive that allows people from Kerry travel to the north for life changing cataract treatment is under threat unless an agreement can be reached before December 31.

ast week saw the last bus load (12 patients) head to Belfast’s Cathedral Eye Clinic to have cataracts removed before the fall-out from Brexit kicks in.

The EU-wide Cross-Border Directive allows EU residents to access health services – including cataract surgery – in any EU member state, an agreement that will come to an end when the UK officially leaves the EU at the end of the month. 

The cross-border service is highly advantageous for patients here who face long waiting lists and who don’t have access to specialist treatment.

It has helped change the lives of hundreds of Kerry people since the Healy-Raes arranged buses to Belfast.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae has said he will fight to have the service continued in the wake of Brexit.

“We cannot thank the staff enough at Cathedral Eye Clinic for the excellent way they were treated during their time there,” said Deputy Healy-Rae.

“I will continue to pursue this in the coming weeks in the hope that an agreement will be made so we can continue this service into 2021,” he added.

General Manager of the Cathedral Eye Clinic, Gary McArdle, said his entire team was absolutely honoured to be in a position to help an ‘amazing group of individuals’ through completing their cataract treatments at its state-of-the-art facility in Belfast.

“Every week we see the positive impact that such a straight-forward treatment can give to a person, no matter what their age,” he said.

“As well as extending the arm of gold-standard care and hospitality to the group – most from Kerry and some from Cork – we were delighted to have been able to significantly improve their quality of life, especially going into Christmas and the colder months,” Mr McArdle added.

“We trust the group had an experience at Cathedral Eye Clinic that they will remember for a number of reasons and, as well as the hard-work of our team at the Clinic, it is the Cross-Border Directive/North-South co-operation that has allowed this to happen, so long may it last,” he added. 

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