Sunday 22 September 2019

Cork patients travelling to Belfast for cataract surgery

The Kingsbridge Hospital in Belfast.
The Kingsbridge Hospital in Belfast.

Tadhg Evans

Cork North West TD Michael Moynihan (Fianna Fáil) has hit out over the number of people waiting on cataract surgery in Cork and Kerry after organising a bus to bring 23 people from North Cork and beyond to Belfast for surgery in recent days.

The Fianna Fáil deputy explained to The Corkman that the bus was organised through his office following a "considerable number of queries" over recent months.

He said that over 500 people in Cork and Kerry are on a waiting list for such surgery, and that some patients "find themselves waiting months, and even years, for what is widely considered routine surgery".

The bus departed from Kanturk last Friday morning, and the route included a stop in Charleville.

The vast majority of the patients making the journey were from North Cork, Deputy Moynihan said. An overnight stay in Belfast was also arranged.

He explained that the cost of the procedure itself in Kingsbridge Hospital is around €2,000, though this can be reimbursed through an EU Directive.

"People are now facing the choice of paying to go privately or to apply for the Cross Border Directive to see if they can travel to Northern Ireland or another EU country to have the operation," Mr Moynihan TD said.

"Sending people to Northern Ireland or further afield, or forcing them into private healthcare, should not be the only options for patients.

"While it is certainly not an ideal situation, I am glad to provide this service for my constituents, and we arranged the necessary transport and accommodation in Belfast to make the process as accessible as possible."

The initiative follows similar services arranged by other TDs.

In late 2017, Independent Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae and Independent Cork South West TD Michael Collins initiated a service bringing patients in Kerry and Cork to Belfast for cataract-removal surgery.

While these services have been well-received by those who avail of them, their future has been thrown into doubt due to uncertainty over Brexit; the potential of a hard border between the north and south of Ireland; and, thus, the accessibility of the north as a destination for such surgery.

Deputy Moynihan told The Corkman that he has already received interest for future runs like the one carried out last Friday but admitted that Brexit has added a degree of uncertainty to the future of the service.

"There's a man called Boris Johnson who is Prime Minister of the UK, and there's a thing called Brexit going on, and how things works out and how Mr Johnson goes about things are out of our control here in Kanturk," he said.

"But I will certainly do whatever I possibly can to help anyone who wishes to avail of this option.

"I will be happy to arrange further trips in the future if necessary, and I would ask anyone interested in future buses to contact my office on (029) 51299" he added.