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At a May meeting of the HSE’s Intercultural Health Governance Committee, it emerged that plans for the medical treatment of a number of programme refugees had run into difficulty.
Programme refugees are people who have been invited to live here by the State under the auspices of the UN Refugee Agency’s Resettlement Programme. The programme itself provides “durable solutions for refugees who are living in perilous conditions or have specific needs that cannot be met in the country where they have sought protection,” according to the UN.
Two cases mentioned specifically describe two children from Syria, due to arrive in Ireland, who were initially declined treatment at the children’s hospital due to straitened resources. According to the minutes, the hospital pointed to the expense of treating one of the children — approximately €250,000 —as one of the factors why it was unable to accept the patients. The decision was subsequently rescinded following the intercession of the then National Director of Acute Services, Mr Ian Carter, the minutes read.
However, the minutes added the hospital “would not be a position to take such children for a further two years thereafter”.
When contacted regarding these matters, the hospital said it cannot comment on individual cases. However, the spokesperson added that it “has a range of national specialities and on occasion has provided treatment for patients” under the UN programme.
“These treatments are undertaken at the request of and in agreement with the HSE, taking into account existing service pressures and treatment capacity,” she said.
When asked about the moratorium on specific patients mentioned in the minutes, the hospital said “we have nothing further to add to our statement, other than that these arrangements are delivered in agreement with the HSE”.
A spokesperson for the HSE told this newspaper that Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, has been “extremely supportive of the resettlement programme”.
“Some of the children previously accepted are still in treatment with the hospital and as such, it was agreed that for the next two years the emphasis of the programme should be on adults with significant medical needs.”
Responding to MI’s further queries, the spokesperson for the Executive said that it “hopes to treat five programme refugees with medical needs in 2015”. Since 2011, the HSE has treated 15 programme refugees with medical needs. During the same period, the spokesperson confirmed that five cases the Executive had been asked to consider were not provided with treatment in Ireland.
“The HSE reviews the medical details of these people before they travel. In cases where treatment was not offered in Ireland, it was felt that it was not in the best interest of the applicant. These cases are then referred to another country for consideration,” the spokesperson explained.
Almost 280 programme refugees from various countries were received by Ireland between 2011 and 2014. According to the HSE, 90 Syrian refugees were resettled in this country since October 2014. A further 220 refugees are expected to arrive in 2015 and in 2016.