Belfast Telegraph

Ombudsman backs boy's medical fight

Health chiefs have been forced in to a U-turn and told to honour an agreement to fund a young boy's medical treatment in the United States.

Children's Ombudsman Emily Logan took on the case for the parents of the seven-year-old with limb abnormalities, whose right leg can only be lengthened by medics in America.

She said the Health Service Executive (HSE) had unfairly reneged on a written agreement to cover 70% of the costs following a change in policy, telling the parents funding would be stopped.

She said the boy still had three treatments left.

"Through a series of five operations over 10 years they are going to be able to extend and lengthen his thigh bone to ensure that by the time he is 16 that both of his legs would be of an equal length," said Ms Logan.

"You can imagine for any parent the opportunity for a child to reach their 16th birthday and instead of being in a wheelchair to have the opportunity to have both their legs the same length is a huge opportunity for them."

The parents of the boy had complained that while their son had received two operations in the US in 2006 and 2009, the HSE informed them in 2011 that their son was not entitled to funding and that they had been overpaid 5,000 euro.

Ms Logan said that after a thorough investigation her office found the decision had adversely affected the child, and that it was based on an undesirable administrative practice and contrary to fair or sound administration.

In reply, the HSE said its treatment abroad scheme office (TAS) accepts the recommendations of the Ombudsman for Children's investigation into a complaint concerning the application for assistance towards a young boy's travel and subsistence for his treatment abroad.

"The TAS has been liaising with the family concerned to resolve the matter of overpayments in this case," it added.

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