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Now it's the hip op bus!

May 22nd, 2023 3:00 PM

By Jackie Keogh

Now it's the hip op bus! Image
TD Collins estimates that close to 3,000 people have made the trip on the 'Belfast or Blind' bus

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FOLLOWING the success of the ‘Belfast or Blind’ bus, a new bus service from West Cork to Northern Ireland for hip and knee operations is set to kick off this weekend.

Kingsbridge B4 Crutches is the new service that will run in tandem with the long-running cataract bus, local TD Michael Collins announced this week.

The service, described as being ‘the first of its kind’ in the country, will leave West Cork for Belfast at 6am on Saturday morning with 25 patients in need of hip or knee replacements.

‘The Belfast or Blind Bus, which offers cataract operations, has been so successful,’ said the independent TD, ‘that people were coming to me asking for a similar service – one that would treat knee, hip, shoulder, prostate, and carpal tunnel syndrome, to mention a few.’

The 25 patients are from Schull, Skibbereen, Caheragh, Glandore and Bandon, as well as north Cork and west Kerry, and there’s also a passenger from Cape Clear taking the trip north on Saturday.

Patients who have lost patience with the Irish healthcare system have opted to avail of the cross-border scheme, which allows people to recoup the cost from the State.

‘Some of these people have been waiting in pain for more than two years,’ said Deputy Collins, ‘so I felt obliged to organise a second bus route in addition to the bus for people needing cataract operations.

‘This weekend, the patients will be travelling for a pre-operative consultation and be back in their homes later the same day. They will, however, need to return two months later for the actual operation,’ he said.

‘The benefit of this system,’ said the Goleen TD, ‘is that within days of them having their pre-op consultation, they will know the exact date of their operation, which is a far cry from the never-ending waiting lists under our own healthcare system.

'Our first bus is full,' he added ‘but we are planning to run a bus for these types of procedures once a month.’

Collins started the cataract buses the same way – once a month – but that quickly morphed into once a week and, this weekend, there will be two cataract buses, one on Friday and one on Saturday.

That brings the total number of cataract buses so far to 122. ‘There is no end in sight,’ said Deputy Collins. ‘If anything, the demand for cataract operations has only increased and we believe there will be an equal, if not bigger, demand for the new service.’

Michael Collins said he cannot say exactly how many people have had the successful cataract operations at the Kingsbridge Private Hospital, but he estimates that at 24 people per bus, the figure is close to 3,000.

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