Fianna Fáil TD for Donegal Charlie McConalogue has accused the Government of abandoning rheumatology patients in Donegal after receiving confirmation that the outreach clinic at Letterkenny General Hospital will not be re-opened until a 3rd rheumatology consultant post for the North West is filled. This additional post is very much welcome and is currently being advertised but it generally takes at least six months before appointments are made.

Deputy McConalogue commented, “This latest correspondence serves to push the reinstatement of the rheumatology clinic at Lettekenny General Hospital at least another 6 months down the road. The Saolta Hospital Group has been giving assurances since early 2011 that rheumatology services would be reinstated at the hospital, however, 4 years later arthritis sufferers are still being forced to travel to Co. Leitrim for treatment and they will be expected to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

“It is completely unacceptable that the Saolta Hospital Group is continuing to drag its heels on this important issue. The Group seems unwilling to allocate or re-direct doctors to staff an out-reach clinic at Letterkenny. Management are clearly prioritising the Manorhamilton facility, and are concerned about reduced services there if consultants have to travel between Our Lady’s and Letterkenny General. However, they have expressed no such concern about the lack of service at Letterkenny, further highlighting the fact that the needs of the patients in Donegal are not being considered. There are almost 300 rheumatology patients in Donegal, more than justifying an outreach clinic at Letterkenny.

“The lack of action in addressing this extremely serious situation further emphasises this Government’s disinterest and disdain for people living outside the capital. This Dublin-based and Dublin-focused Health Minister seems content to allow patients from Donegal, suffering acute pain as a result of their condition, to make the gruelling journey to Manorhamilton, rather than deliver on promises to re-instate the outreach clinic at Letterkenny. Not only are patients forced to endure extreme discomfort as a result of the journey between Letterkenny and Manorhamilton, they face a substantial financial burden to subsidise these regular trips to Our Lady’s Hospital.

“The HSE committed to re-instate the clinic numerous times over the last number of years. Donegal patients cannot be expected to wait any longer for this essential service, surely the clinic could be reinstated on the basis that the 3rd Rheumatology post has been advertised rather than waiting until the process is completed,” concluded Deputy McConalogue.