Ireland cuts countries from green list

 

Green countries are where people can visit without having to restrict their movements upon return.

The six countries removed by the Department of Foreign Affairs are Estonia, Greece, Greenland, Hungary, Italy, Norway and Slovakia, with their advisories changed to ‘avoid non-essential travel.’

Italy, Lithuania and Hungary are also popular destinations for Irish medical travellers.

The list of green nations is reviewed every two weeks and the nations included have a lower virus indigence rate per 100,000 population than Irelands current rate.

The changes are an interim measure until mid-October, when Ireland is set to opt into the EU-wide ‘traffic light’ system for the resumption of safe travel.

The borders with Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK have never closed, with the UK in general and Northern Ireland in particular key medical tourism destinations. But Irish travellers have to comply with local UK lockdowns.

With difficult Brexit negotiations and declining political trust of the UK in Ireland however, the Irish government is moving to become less reliant on UK healthcare. For example, a dedicated cataract surgery theatre is to be developed in a Cork hospital to cut waiting lists and save millions of euros on outsourcing treatment.

Funding has been approved for the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital (SIVUH) to refit a designed area with two side-by-side ophthalmology operating theatres. One will deal with the most complex ophthalmic cases, while the second will serve as a dedicated cataract theatre, with capacity for up to 2,000 cataract surgeries annually.

Cataract waiting lists nationally have soared in recent years, peaking at 10,000 in July 2017. It has forced patients to seek treatment in Northern Ireland, with their operation costs reimbursed under the cross-border directive healthcare scheme.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) pays €1,450 (US$1,700) per cataract operation, which is outsourced to private hospitals in Ireland or Northern Ireland.

The NTPF outsourced 600 cataracts from SIVUH in 2018.The cross-border directive scheme paid out €12m (US$14m) on ophthalmology procedures in the first six months of 2019.

By the end of July 2020, the national cataract waiting list reduced to 5,525, but there are concerns that the figure could rise as a result of the cancellation of surgeries during lockdown.

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