BY JACKIE KEOGH
A REGULAR bus service to bring people from West Cork to a Belfast hospital could be established after a Southern Star article about a 90-year old man’s 600-mile journey north for a cataract operation has seen the facility inundated with local queries.
John Patrick Harrington from Coomhola in Bantry who is blind in one eye and was rapidly losing the sight in the other, was told that he could be waiting three to four years to have a cataract operation carried out in the south so he and his family decided to travel to Kingsbridge Hospital for the procedure last month, as part of the Cross-Border healthcare initiative.
Mark Regan, CEO of Kingsbridge Hospital in Belfast, said: ‘Since The Southern Star article appeared, we have seen an incredible increase from the Cork region, so much so, that local TD, Michael Collins is exploring the establishment of a regular bus service from Cork, direct to the hospital, in the hope that this would help community groups and the elderly who perhaps don’t have access to private transport.’
Around 30 people have made direct contact with the hospital after reading the article.
Michael Collins TD confirmed that negotiations are ongoing to arrange a bus service with the support of Local Link and the League of Credit Unions with a view to taking groups of patients from West Cork to Belfast.
And John Patrick’s son Jerry, who drove his father to Belfast for the procedure, has also offered to bring people who are waiting for treatment north.
He said his father is recovering well after the cataract operation and was ‘thrilled to bits with the article and showing it to everyone that calls.’
Jerry said the article has created huge interest in their journey and people from all over West Cork have been contacting him saying: ‘If a 90-year-old can do it, I can.’
‘I am aware of people who have no family back-up or support and we are trying to set up a support system for people who find themselves in this situation.
‘The Southern Star article has made a huge difference to the people of West Cork who otherwise would continue to suffer in silence within our appalling health service.’
Mr Regan explained that whilst many of the patients they see are for hip and knee replacements, spinal conditions or cataracts, the hospital can actually undertake all of the most common surgeries via the Cross Border Healthcare Directive.
He said there is no need to be on a HSE waiting list for any length of time and that anyone who resides in Ireland can avail of the scheme.
The CEO said many surgeries are refunded in full by the HSE within a few weeks and Kingsbridge can take care of the application process with the dedicated staff on site.
Anyone interested in being seen for surgery can call 048 90688858, or they can send an email to: [email protected]
Mr Regan said: ‘Our team can explain the process, give you the name of a consultant surgeon, along with a first appointment date and how the payment and HSE refunds work, so patients can then take this information to their own HSE GP.’