The HSE should not pay for public patients to undergo sex-change operations abroad when cuts are being made to frontline services for children, a Labour Party councillor hass claimed.
Colm Keaveney, from Tuam in east Galway, has called for a review of all HSE expenditure after a child in his area was denied funding for essential hearing-aid implants. His comments come in the wake of recent reports that the HSE has paid for at least 22 public patients to undergo sex-change operations over the past decade at a cost of around of €63,000 for female-to-male operations and €30,000 for male-to-female procedures.
"When allocating scarce resources, we must establish what actually delivers best value for society and the individual," he said.
"Depriving children of necessary aids and appliances at this point in their life will have a devastating social outcome in later years when compared to some very expensive procedures being paid for by the taxpayer.
"While I understand this may be offensive to transgender people, I would ask them to look at this through the eyes of a parent and try to empathise with how they feel about their child's wellbeing.
"Given the dire straits the country finds itself in, it is vital that we focus government spending on areas that will deliver positive results for our society in the long run."
A spokeswoman for the Transgender Equality Network Ireland said: "I agree that it is regretful that the HSE is making cutbacks in service provision [but] transgender people are part of Irish society and are also taxpayers so they are entitled to access healthcare appropriate to their specific needs, just like other people living in Ireland."
She added that "the government is now in the process of working on legislation that will finally recognise the legal status of transgender people in Ireland."
It was recently reported that the HSE is funding sex-change operations under the Treatment Abroad schemes, where the HSE pays for the treatment in another EU country when it cannot be obtained in Ireland. Keaveney was speaking after being contacted by parents of a child with hearing difficulties.
The seven-year-old child, who has 35% hearing loss in both ears, may have to be taken out of mainstream education as the HSE has refused to fund hearing-aid implants at a total cost of €1,600 for the child.
A spokeswoman for the HSE said the organisation does not comment on individual cases.
Regardless of whether transgender surgery has or has not been funded by the HSE, the needs of a child should never be neglected. Pitching agonised parents of a 7yr old against a distraught patient awaiting transgender procedure serves only to muddy the waters. The real issue here is yet another shortcoming within the HSE