Patients must foot the bill for home use blood treatment themselves, HSE tell consultants

New patients who want to avail of a home-use medical treatment which increases arterial blood flow to the leg must now foot the bill themselves.

The HSE West has notified hospital consultants that while a national review is taking place into the clinical efficacy of the ArtAssist pump the health authority cannot fund new patients.

Doctors have been advised that if they prescribe the device they do so in the knowledge that it cannot be funded under the medical card system and patients will have to fund it privately. Only patients already receiving the treatment will continue to get it while the review is ongoing.

The decision has been slammed as shortsighted by Connemara senator Trevor ó Clochartaigh who warns it will result in higher bills for the taxpayer.

He claims the fact that HSE funding for this medical device is no longer available to people in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon represents a “clear discrimination” of patients in the region.

His comments come in the wake of Mr Sharif Sultan, a consultant endo-vascular specialist at Galway University Hospitals, making a presentation on the ArtAssist pump to members of the Oireachtas.

A long-time advocate of this medical device, Mr Sultan explained how the machine works and why it is of major importance to patients who have peripheral arterial disease.

Senator ó Clochartaigh, who facilitated the presentation, describes the pump as a cost-effective, non-invasive home device that increases arterial blood flow to the leg.

“It is the only external pneumatic compression device available in Ireland. Although accepted as a limb-saving medical device, HSE funding is no longer available to patients who live in counties Mayo, Galway and Roscommon. This funding disparity represents a clear discrimination of patients who live in this western region.”

The senator, who will raise the issue at next month’s Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Castlebar, states there is mounting medical evidence which verifies the effectiveness of this medical device.

“The decision to withhold funding is shortsighted and makes neither medical nor economic sense. The HSE may hope to make savings in the short term but will face increasing costs in the future as the cost of treating amputations far outweighs that associated with preventative, treatment measures. Once again, we have an example of a short-term saving that will ultimately cost the tax-payer more in the long-term.

“Oireachtas members who attended the presentation in Leinster House heard the medical argument put forward by Mr Sherif Sultan. He must be commended for his tireless efforts to raise this important health matter. Our national public representatives must now stand up for the rights of those living in the West of Ireland who deserve equal treatment. The HSE must put the needs of the patients first whilst also accepting the economic logic of the argument.”

He is calling on the Minister for Health Dr James Reilly to immediately restore funding to western patients who require this “limb saving, cost effective, non-invasive therapy”.

The HSE West, in a statement, says there are hundreds of new medical technologies and drugs that come on stream every year.

“It is essential that the effectiveness of any new device or drug is fully reviewed to ensure it delivers improved outcomes for the patient and value for money for the state. The Art Assist pump is currently being examined for its clinical efficacy and is being reviewed as part of the clinical programmes at a national level. The HSE National Director for Quality, Safety and Risk is undertaking a full assessment of the efficacy of the Art Assist pump to establish not just it appropriateness but also the clinical benefit if any that is provides to patients.”

A clinical review of the doctor prescribed device is currently taking place and patients who are already receiving the treatment will continue to get it while this review is ongoing.

“It is fair and reasonable to continue providing the ArtAssist pumps to current clients until the review is completed,” the statement reads. “Consultants in the HSE West have been notified that the review is taking place and have been informed that the HSE West cannot fund new patients whilst the review is incomplete. Consultants have been advised that if they prescribe the device they do so in the full knowledge that it cannot be funded under the medical card system and patients will have to fund the device privately.”

The ArtAssist arterial device applies a form of pneumatic compression to increase arterial blood flow to legs with poor circulation. It is recommended for patients with peripheral arterial disease, diabetic foot ulcers, arterial ulcers, walking and rest pain.

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