The Health Service Executive (HSE) paid for six patients to undergo sex-change operations abroad last year, according to records released under the Freedom of Information Act.
It brings to 59 the number of people who have availed of gender reassignment or “sex-change” surgery at taxpayers’ expense under the Treatment Abroad Scheme since 1999.
The procedures are not performed in Irish hospitals but can be arranged in another country and funded by the HSE under the terms of the Treatment Abroad Scheme.
Based on pricing data provided by the HSE, the cost of funding public patients to undergo sex-change operations abroad since 1999 has amounted to €1.8m, excluding travel expenses and post-operative care.
The procedure is considered a treatment for gender identity disorder (GID) and involves hormone therapy and the reconstruction of genitalia.
Last year, the HSE paid for six public patients to make 40 separate visits to hospitals outside the State for the purpose of undergoing gender reassignment procedures.
According to the HSE, the average cost of an assessment and the associated surgery is €30,200, although the cost of female-to-male operations is considerably higher than male-to-female procedures.
A total of 59 patients have now undergone sex-change surgery under the publicly funded Treatment Abroad Scheme. Four patients travelled abroad for the treatment in 2014, five in 2013, and 12 availed of the scheme in 2012.
The HSE declined to comment on the most-recent figures released under the Freedom of Information Act but has previously explained that the volume of requests for transgender surgery each year would not support the provision of a specialised service in Ireland.
“Clinical decision making determines whether or not someone is put forward for this procedure under the Treatment Abroad Scheme,” it stated.
“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.
“The scheme allows an Irish-based consultant to refer a patient normally resident in Ireland for treatment.”
Figures previously obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the HSE paid for 22 patients to have sex-change surgery between 1999 and 2010, while a further 27 were funded to undergo the procedure between 2010 and 2014.
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