The 100th ‘Belfast or Blind’ bus departed, taking patients from Ireland to Northern Ireland, for cataracts service at Kingsbridge Private Hospital.
Five years ago, Irish politicians Michael Collins and Danny Healy-Rae launched a cross-border eye treatment service from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland.
The service was initially to help those stuck on long waiting lists in Ireland but is now regarded as one of the most efficient ways to access eye surgery.
Treatment was initially reimbursed via the Cross Border Directive on Healthcare but it has been replaced by another reimbursement scheme, the Northern Ireland Planned Healthcare Scheme.
At launch in 2017, it was hoped to be a temporary solution of six months, but now 100 buses have taken patients for cataract services in Belfast and Ballykelly (Derry) from Bantry General Hospital, Mallow Hospital and other hospitals in the Cork and Munster area.
The reason is that there is a five-year waiting list in Ireland for the 25-minute surgery.
The Irish Department of Health blames the pandemic and says:
“The Waiting List Action Plan includes a commitment that anybody waiting six months, who is clinically suitable, will receive an offer of care. This includes cataract procedures.”