HSE spends €1.5m to fund sex-change operations
The Health Service Executive (HSE) has paid for at least 49 patients to undergo sex-change operations abroad at a cost to the taxpayer of around €1.5m.
The procedure is not performed in Irish hospitals but it can be arranged in another country and funded by the HSE under the Treatment Abroad Scheme (TAS).
Gender reassignment or 'sex-change' surgery is a treatment for Gender Identity Disorder and involves the reconstruction of genitalia to resemble that of the opposite sex.
According to the HSE, the average cost of an assessment and the associated surgery is approximately €30,200; although the cost of female-to-male operations is considerably higher than male-to-female procedures.
The cost to the HSE of funding 49 patients to undergo sex-change operations in foreign hospitals would, therefore, amount to almost €1.5m, excluding travel expenses and post-operative therapy costs.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the HSE footed the bill for 22 public patients to have sex-change surgery between 1999 and 2010, while a further 27 have undergone the procedure in the period since then.
Five patients applied to the HSE for gender reassignment surgery under TAS last year, while 12 such applications were received in 2012 and seven in 2011.
In a statement, the HSE said that 43 applications for funding in respect of transgender reassignment procedures had been received by the TAS office since 2003.
"It is not possible to give costs associated with individual cases, but we can confirm that an average cost of an assessment and the associated surgical procedure of a transgender case abroad is circa €30,200.
"Clinical decision making determines whether or not someone is put forward for this procedure under the TAS.
"Therefore, each of the patients who availed of the treatment did so by way of clinical referral from their treating physician in Ireland, as per the guidelines," said a HSE spokesperson.
"The TAS allows an Irish-based consultant to refer a patient that is normally resident in Ireland for treatment, unavailable in Ireland, to another EU/EEA member state or to Switzerland."
Under the TAS, the treatment for which a patient is applying must be medically necessary, unavailable in Ireland, and a proven form of medical treatment that is not an experimental therapy.