By Kieran O’Mahony
A NEWLY-elected independent councillor has joined his Bantry colleague in organising a cataract bus for his consitutents to get operations in Belfast.
And Cllr Ben Dalton O’Sullivan – who brought his second bus of people to Belfast last weekend to avail of the eye operation – has said the State has failed these elderly people.
The new member who, at 19, is the youngest councillor in Cork County Council – having recently won his seat in the Carrigaline area – has called for the immediate recruitment of a consultant ophthalmologist in Cork.
‘Less than two weeks ago, the Association of Optometrists of Ireland called on Minister for Health Simon Harris to reform eyecare and to better serve the interests of patients here. They also noted that patients in West Cork face an average waiting time of five years for cataract surgeries,’ said Cllr O’Sullivan, at a meeting of the local authority last week.
‘They are only some of the thousands of people who are going blind who are waiting for these simple 20-minute procedures.’
He commended the work of Cllr Danny Collins and his brother Deputy Michael Collins who have sent busloads of patients to Northern Ireland to access these surgeries. ‘These are mainly elderly people who have worked all their lives and paid their taxes and have done everything by the book, but they are being failed by the State. They are being made to endure a difficult and long journey to Northern Ireland,’ he said.
Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) told councillors that he and his brother have taken 35 buses to Belfast so far from Cork and Kerry, and added that it is ‘ridiculous’ that a theatre unit is lying ‘half idle’ in Bantry.
‘We have been calling for an ophthalmologist to be appointed there for once a month, for one or two days and it would take a load off us,’ said Collins. ‘Nothing is being done by Minister Harris and they’re now saying the numbers are coming down, but that’s because we are organising buses to take people to Belfast. Something has to be drastically done as these are vulnerable people made even more vulnerable.’ He also criticised the slowness in payment afterwards.
Cllr Gearóid Murphy (FF) commended Cllr Dalton O’Sullivan for the work he has done in bringing people to Belfast for these important eye operations.
‘It’s a life-saving operation for these people and it defies belief that people have to be bussed to Northern Ireland just to have this operation,’ said Cllr Murphy.
County mayor Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan said it’s a serious situation when they are relying on Dáil deputies to transport people up to the North for operations.
‘There’s a need there and a demand and it’s up to Minister for Health to meet the demand,’ said Cllr O’Sullivan.
Cllr Seamus McGrath (FF) said it’s a ‘damning indictment’ of a health service in a first world country that can’t provide a basic procedure that is life-changing.