BANTRY General Hospital or Mallow General Hospital could be utilised for cataract procedures and that would go a long way to reducing waiting lists, Independent Deputy Michael Collins told the Dáil.
He said he had taken 18 buses to Belfast to allow people to avail of a 15-minute cataract procedure, along with Kerry Deputy Danny Healy-Rae. Otherwise, they would be expected to wait for up to four years for such treatment on the public waiting list. ‘I had a constituent in his 90s who was expected to wait four years for a cataract procedure,’ he said.
In Belfast, Deputy Collins said the hospitals operate a weekend model where procedures such as cataracts, hips, knees and every other imaginable operation can take place on Saturdays and Sundays.
‘Why can we not have a similar system here? Why do most hospitals shut down in Ireland at 5pm on a Friday evening and real healthcare only resumes on Monday morning? We cannot continue to do that if we are to tackle waiting lists and help people who are suffering, while waiting for procedures to be carried out. It is a joke. We know that many operating theatres, especially in rural hospitals, are not operating at full capacity. Some of them only operate two to three days a week.
‘I have been told that it is due to staffing levels. No wonder our waiting lists are at an extremely critical point in this country.’
Deputy Collins said he met the management of Bantry General Hospital as recently as last month to put forward the suggestion that the hospital could provide cataract procedures.
‘I keep hearing the argument that the hospital does not have enough staff or facilities for such procedures in rural hospitals,’ he added. ‘There are two consultant posts in Bantry General Hospital which have not been filled because the hospital cannot get consultants. I firmly belief proper incentives are not being given to attract consultants to take up those positions in the hospital.’
He said junior Health Minister Jim Daly knows the importance of Bantry General Hospital to over 84,000 people in West Cork and much of Kerry. ‘The Minister for Health was there recently, making announcements. He can be making announcements until the cows come home, but if the consultants are not there to carry out the work, there is no point making any announcement. In the case of Bantry General Hospital, we have to put in the foundation before we start talking about all the other things that need to be done there.’