The HSE misplaced referrals for over 100 people who were waiting for transgender healthcare
Transgender health activists said that the "devastating" breach of trust left some people on the wrong waiting list for up to three years.
The National Gender Service, which runs transgender healthcare for the HSE, has told campaigners that it misplaced referrals for 109 people. It means that some people who believed they were on a waiting list for transgender healthcare have been on the wrong waiting list for up to three years.
The Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) said that some transgender patients have spent years waiting for an appointment, "without any communication or notification" from the National Gender Service.
Transgender people can already be left waiting years to access healthcare through the HSE, and many choose to go private instead. At the moment, it takes over a year for a person to get their first visit with the National Gender Service.
People who had their referrals misplaced incorrectly believed that they were making their way through the waiting list for hormone treatment, which is over three years long.
TENI said it understands that the HSE will now contact everyone affected by the mistake, and decide what to do on a "case by case basis" and that those affected will be reinstated into the correct position on the waiting list.
"We are shocked and disappointed at this disregard for patients. This will have a devastating impact on our community. It is a breach of trust. Our community told us that they were waiting too long, that their referrals were lost in the system and that they were not being kept informed. We knew that these concerns were valid. Now the National Gender Service has finally admitted that their system has failed us," TENI said, in a statement.
Transgender healthcare campaigners had repeatedly raised concerns about patients being left off HSE waiting lists, but had never had their concerns addressed until now. TENI said it had "consistently" raised the issue. It said it held a crisis meeting with the HSE on Monday, and was told that the National Gender Service would put resources in place to resolve the problem.
This Is Me, a group which campaigns for better healthcare for trans people, said that it was not shocked by the HSE announcement.
"We are only shocked and surprised by the National Gender Services’s public admission to this long known situation. That they have finally, publicly confirmed our claims to be true," it said.
It said the HSE had "now confirmed the service failures that This Is Me, TENI and the trans community as a whole have been saying all along."
"Although we are satisfied that the National Gender Service has now admitted their failures, the real work for the community begins now," it said.
"It is the community that will have to pick up the pieces and it is the community who will have to support the hundreds of people who are affected by this news."
In a statement on Wednesday, the HSE said it was "confident" that its review "has identified the majority of those affected."
"However, if anyone was referred to the service, and has not been contacted by us, they can alert us to your situation by ringing 01-2115045 or email firstname.lastname@example.org," it said.
"We apologise to those affected by this discovery, their families, and the transgender community in Ireland. We have informed TENI and other relevant stakeholders of the situation and will continue to update them as things progress
"The National Gender Service is committed to continuing our quality improvement programme and will continue to review all processes regularly. We are now confident that this issue has being fully resolved and will not be repeated."
Anyone whose referral was lost will receive a letter from the National Gender Service. Anyone who needs urgent support can call the LGBT Helpline on 1890 929 539. You can also contact the Samaritans at 116 123 or Pieta House at 1800 247 247.