A KILLYCLOGHER woman has urged people to consider travelling to Lithuania for operations as health waiting lists here hit an all time high.
Elizabeth McCallen, 65, travelled to Lithuania to have surgery on both of her hips, bypassing the lengthy waiting lists in the North.
On June 20, Mrs McCallen had surgery on her left hip, and just four months later, she had surgery on her right hip.
Mrs McCallen travelled to Lithuania as part of the Cross Border directive – a scheme which allows patients to travel to have operations done, funded by the NHS.
Patients must first apply for the scheme and fund the operation, but the cost of the operation will be refunded if granted funding.
Speaking to the Ulster Herald, Mrs McCallen said she would “highly recommend” travelling for operations rather than sitting on waiting lists.
“My hips went really quickly so I hadn’t been on the surgical lists for treatment. I had to go privately to a consultant and get him to put me on the surgical list and then apply to the Cross Border Directive.
“After 20 days they approved me for the funding. The place was amazing: I spent two days in the clinic and then I went to a spa for recovery. You have to pay for the spa yourself but everyday I got physiotherapy, treatment to the wound, massages and all that was needed for rehabilitation. This speeded up my recovery when I got home. It works out to be about £6,500 and you get that money back. You have to fund the spa and rehabilitation yourself but that is optional.
“You can come straight home after the surgery.”
Mrs McCallen has been on the waiting list for a knee operation for over two and a half years, but now plans to return to Lithuania to bypass the waiting lists here.
“I would have been waiting years to get my hips done. I’ve already been on the waiting list for two and a half years to get treatment on my knee.
“I don’t know if the funding will be available next year because of Brexit but I will definitely go back over again. I am 65 and there is no point sitting on waiting lists when this is available to us.”
Mrs McCallen believes getting treatment abroad was the “best decision” she ever made and has urged others to follow in her steps.
“You are dealing with pain and it impacts everything in your life – your sleep, your mobility and everyday tasks.
“GPs are not telling people about this scheme and some people think you are jumping the list, but you are actually shortening the list here.”