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    Public patients wait four months longer for scans

    Posted on October 24, 2019 by Miriam Ahern

    People who are unable to afford private medical insurance are disadvantaged when they need to have tests to diagnose serious conditions, according to a new report.

    Ireland’s two-tier health service means patients are less likely to get an early diagnosis for a serious illness, such as a brain tumour, if they cannot pay for private diagnostics, the report by  the TASC think-tank highlighted.

    The average wait for a brain MRI through the public system is 126 days – over  four months – , the report points out, while private patients wait just six days or about one week.

    The situation would be even worse without the involvement of civil society organisations – charities and support groups – which play a significant role in reducing health inequalities in Ireland, it says.

    The TASC report examined access to diagnosis for three different conditions: (1) a common cancer such as lung cancer; (2) a rare one such as a brain tumour; and (3) autism spectrum disorder, a complex condition, across three countries with different health systems.

    The three countries are Ireland, which does not have universal healthcare and where access is based on residency and, often, means; Germany, which operates a social insurance system; and Spain, which has a national health service.

    In Spain and Germany, where healthcare is almost universal, the study notes there were geographical  or regional inequalities in access to lung cancer and brain tumour diagnostics, rather than inequalities based on socioeconomic background.