Fianna Fáil TD for Donegal North East Charlie McConalogue has accused the Government and HSE of coming up with new excuses to delay the re-opening of the rheumatology clinic at Letterkenny General Hospital.
In a statement last week, Junior Minister Joe McHugh claimed the West/North West Hospital Group will restore the outreach clinic once a third consultant Rheumatologist is appointed. This is the first time that there has been any reference to an additional consultant post, which could take more than a year to be approved.
Deputy McConalogue commented, “This is another ploy by the Government and the HSE to delay the rheumatology clinic and force Donegal patients to endure lengthy and painful trips to Leitrim for their treatment. I have been making representations on this issue since I was first elected to the Dáil and not once over the last 3 and half years as it ever been mentioned that the clinic couldn’t be re-opened until a third consultant was appointed.
“The North West Hospital Group has been giving assurances since early 2011 that rheumatology services would be reinstated in Letterkenny however almost 4 years later arthritis sufferers are still being forced to travel to Our Lady’s Hospital in Manorhamilton to see a consultant. In the first six months of this year more than 200 Donegal patients had to make the trip to Leitrim for treatment. It is cruel to expect patients who are in serious pain and discomfort to undertake an arduous and gruelling car or bus journey for a hospital appointment.
“There are almost 300 rheumatology patients in Donegal, more than justifying an outreach clinic at Letterkenny, however the Government has let this important issue slip down its priority list. I have been raising this issue continuously at both local and national level, but it has been stonewalled at every corner. I have written to the North West Hospital Group on numerous occasions over the past three and a half years but never once was a third consultant cited as a barrier to the reinstatement of the clinic at Letterkenny.
“I find the constant delays and excuses for the lack of progress on this issue hard to believe. This latest revelation that a third consultant rheumatologist is needed before the clinic can re-open smacks of another ploy to defer the reinstatement of the clinic further.
“The Health Minister must intervene to resolve this impasse. There have been a series of broken promises from this Government but no action on this issue. I would urge Minister Varadkar stop ignoring patients in Donegal and to put in place the measures necessary to reopen the rheumatology clinic at Letterkenny General Hospital without delay”.