THE 100th Belfast Bus will make its way to the Kingsbridge Private Hospital on Saturday with 24 patients travelling for cataract operations.
Independent TDs Michael Collins and Danny Healy-Rae have been running the buses since December 2017, when the first bus took the 1,000km journey with just 13 people on board.
Since then, Deputy Collins estimated that up to 3,000 surgeries have taken place in Belfast under the Northern Ireland Health Care Initiative and the former EU Cross Border Directive.
‘We have no doubt that countless people in Cork county would have gone blind because their cataracts were so bad and the waiting list for surgery in this country was so long. This weekend,’ Michael Collins said, ‘I have one lady from Glengarriff, who is 90 years of age and is going for her second cataract operation.
‘She had her first operation a few weeks ago and was so thrilled with the result that she was on to me straight away to have her second eye done.
‘She was struggling to see because her vision was almost gone,’ he said.
‘This is a genuine case of an elderly member of our community who almost went blind because of the delays in the Irish healthcare system.’
The Belfast or Blind bus, as it has been called, is not confined to people from West Cork.
‘This weekend, in addition to people from Eyeries, Ballydehob, Clonakilty, Aughadown, Rosscarbery, Glengarriff and Goleen,’ Michael Collins said, ‘we have people travelling from Passage West, Ballyvourney, Togher, Rathcormac, Carrigaline, Youghal, Bishopstown, Ballinhassig and Ballyvoulane, Kanturk, Boherbue, Blackrock and Tipperary, as well as two from Killarney, one from Lixnaw, and one from Abbeyfeale.
‘These addresses give a clear indication that it’s a national problem and I have always asserted that cataract operations should be carried out at hospitals at Bantry, Mallow and Cork.’
‘They are carrying out these operations in tents in Ethiopia,’ said the Mizen deputy.
‘And what we are told is that for them to be carried out safely and successfully in Cork all that is required is a clean room, fully equipped.’