Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Monday, 8 March 2021

Seanad Committee on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union

Cross-Border Healthcare Directive: Discussion

Mr. Martin Bright:

In the overall scheme of things I would like to give the members of the committee two short testimonials of what the treatment has meant for people. These are real people and the difference the cross-border hospital directive has made for them is life changing. PMAS has sent just over 1,200 members of the Defence Forces for treatment. We have successfully moved 256 people to surgery. Most of the surgeries are orthopaedic, which is a consequence of the robust nature of military service. Some other small surgeries are captured under the terms of the cross-border directive. However, we address anything that would be career ending and would stop people from serving. There is constant ongoing demand for the service. In the past two weeks alone, another 14 members have been referred to us by the military authorities for treatment.

I will give the committee a flavour of the impact the scheme has on people. First, a male member of the Defence Forces aged in his early 40s was waiting in excess of two years for surgery on his knee. He could not afford to pay for private care and could not save the money for treatment. His career was basically on hold as a consequence. He could not go oversees or attend his skills and promotions courses. He faced the medical board and discharge from the Defence Forces. Due to the cross-border directive, in tandem with PMAS, he underwent surgery. He has not only been retained in service, he has since been extended in service for the Defence Forces, has been promoted and has served overseas on two occasions, once in Syria with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, UNDOF. He is currently serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL.

Second, a female member of the Defence Forces aged in her early 30s was undergoing IVF treatment when cysts on her ovaries were found that rang alarm bells. Urgent medical intervention was needed. Within seven days, PMAS, in conjunction with the cross-border directive, turned the member around. She received her treatment, has returned to normal life and, I am happy to say, is now well advanced in her pregnancy. She went through IVF and cancer and is now pregnant. That is the impact the scheme and the cross-border directive have on the real lives of the people in the Defence Forces we represent.


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