A new Irish healthcare company aims to tackle Connacht's lengthy hospital waiting lists by providing patients with direct access to some of Europe's best hospitals and medical care.
Trasna is the brainchild of Martin O'Rourke, the founder of BUPA Ireland. He says his organisation "offers light at the end of the tunnel" for thousands of patients - many suffering needlessly - by giving them direct access to medical care across Europe.
He explains that since 2015 all EU citizens are entitled to seek healthcare in any other EU state and be reimbursed by their own state, up to the cost of the treatment at home. A patient who needs a hip or knee replacement, for example, can travel within the EU to get the procedure done, pay for it themselves, and on returning home get reimbursed by the HSE to the amount the treatment would have cost in Ireland.
The HSE has administrative systems in place to enable use of the new benefits. Trasna helps patients who, by choice or because they are on long waiting times, wish to avail of access to care elsewhere in the EU.
Trasna has partnered with HCA, the world's largest private healthcare company, to give Irish patients access to UK based hospitals. Additionally, it has partnered with The Capio Group, the leading Pan-European Healthcare company with hospitals across France and other EU countries. Trasna now has access to 33 top quality accredited hospital and clinics.
"Our team, which includes four senior ex BUPA directors, will expand within the EU, but for now our focus is very much on Ireland. Early marketing efforts will concentrate on the south/south west region, which has some of the longest waiting times. Demand for orthopaedic procedures, in particular hip replacements, is high. Our plan is to increase our marketing activity nationwide early in the new year and expand our network to include partner hospitals in additional member states," confirmed Mr O'Rourke.
Bronagh Twomey, the marketing director of Trasna, says the process begins with a conversation between the patient and his/her GP.
"The patient or GP calls the Trasna Support Centre, which is based in Waterford. It is important that the patient's GP or medical team agrees that the patient is fit to travel and a good candidate for treatment under CBH. We present options for hospitals, in different locations so the patient and doctor can make a final decision. We assist with arranging such diagnostic and pre-travel tests as may be required and present the patient with a detailed itinerary for treatment and care before travelling. We also help estimate the ancillary costs.
"Under the EU Cross Border Healthcare Directive the procedure and hospital stay are reimbursed by the HSE after the treatment. Travel, accommodation and subsistence outside of the hospital stay is not reimbursed. We provide help with arrangements for travel, accommodation, finance and the re-imbursement process with the HSE when the patient is home. Trasna ensures that every patient has a dedicated personal care manager to assist with the patient's journey from start to finish."
Trasna has been helping patients in the run-up to its market entry. A 76-year-old patient, who urgently needed a hip replacement and had been on a waiting list for four years, travelled to England for surgery.
"He was very surprised at how quickly he was treated and 'couldn't talk more highly' of the hospital, doctors, and nurses that cared for him. He was enjoying a holiday when we gave him our follow up call!"