‘It’s staggering that people in their 80s and 90s are on a 3-5 year waiting list with the HSE for a half-hour operation’
Many elderly people are forced to travel hours on a bus from West Cork to Northern Ireland for a half-hour cataract procedure that will save their sight.
"Without this bus, thousands of people would have gone blind in Cork county,” Independent TD Michael Collins told sundayworld.com.
"It’s staggering that people in their 80s and 90s are on a 3-5 year waiting list with the HSE for a half-hour operation.”
He described the situation as “shocking,” revealing elderly pensioners are getting up as early as 2am for buses bound for Northern Ireland when there are hospitals closer to home that could carry out the procedure if they just had enough funding.
The West Cork TD has been organising these buses since 2017 – and the 107th left for Derry this morning.
Two more full buses are setting off this Friday and Saturday – with more setting off each month.
Pensioners from Bantry, Kinsale, Skibbereem, Innishannon, Mallow, Mayfield, Kanturk, Macroom and Kerry began their journey this morning.
“They are left with no choice,” Mr Collins said. “It is either this or go blind.”
The Independent TD says he has repeatedly raised the issue in the Dáíl, but the government “sits idly by” while the health crisis continues.
The loss of services in near-by hospitals means “ambulances are by-passing Bantry and heading straight for Cork.
“It’s pushing people into over-crowded centres. It’s why people are dying – because the system is being badly managed by the government.
"How many people died because of the hospital crisis? Why are we fire-fighting instead of planning for these situations?
"The HSE is the government’s job. They need to sit up and stop pointing fingers at everyone else and see they haven’t improved things.
"They’ve only gotten worse with this Health Minister and they’re looking for a pat on the back. In my opinion they are not doing a good job, how is it a good job when dying people are on trollies?”
The West Cork TD said “heads need to roll” throughout government. “People’s lives are at risk.”
Mr Collins revealed there is a huge number of constituents getting in touch with him in recent weeks, patients who “urgently” need care and need beds.
He compared the situation at Cork University Hospital to a “warzone” at no fault of the staff.
"They are overstretched while people are crying out for help.”
The TD said this problem long pre-dates the current trolley crisis in Irish hospitals and “there are Bantry and Mallow hospitals across the country” that could alleviate the pressure if they only received support and staff.
"It’s outrageous carry-on," he added.
Almost 500 people across the country were on trolleys in Ireland’s hospitals yesterday.
The number is down from the record of 931 people who were on trolleys last week.