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In an update provided to the Medical Independent (MI), a spokesperson for the Office of the Ombudsman commented: “The Ombudsman’s investigation of the Treatment Abroad Scheme is underway. Initial detailed interviews and examinations have been conducted with complainants and with the HSE. Further interviews with officials in the HSE and the Department of Health will take place shortly.”
In the course of the investigation, it is intended to “gather additional information in consultation with medical and administrative staff, as well as some patient representative groups”.
The investigation will also involve a comparison between TAS administrations in Ireland and other EU states.
“Whereas it is intended to prepare a draft investigation report for issue to the HSE before the end of the year, this will depend on the volume, nature, and complexity of issues arising in the investigation,” added the Ombudsman’s spokesperson.
As first reported by MI in April, the investigation was prompted by three complaints about the TAS received by Ombudsman Mr Peter Tyndall’s office.
The function of the Ombudsman is to examine complaints from the public who believe that they have been unfairly treated by certain public bodies, including the HSE.
Only a small number of complaints result in an investigation report. Complaints escalated to investigation usually involve complex issues, or matters with wider significance for public administration.
The TAS was introduced under EU regulations and covers the cost of medically-necessary, approved treatments in the public healthcare system of another EU/EEA member state or Switzerland.
It allows for a person ordinarily resident in the Republic of Ireland to be referred abroad by an Irish-based consultant for treatment that is not available in Ireland, or not available within the time normally necessary for obtaining it in Ireland.