30 Nov 2021

HSE says options 'limited' over eye service cover

St Joseph's Care Centre

St Joseph's Care Centre

Longford people are “once again being treated as second class citizens” as fears grow over the long term future of the county’s primary eye care service.

It has emerged the current St Joseph’s Care Centre opthamologist is due to go on maternity leave with uncertainty linked to suitable cover being provided.
In correspondence seen by this newspaper, HSE officials confirmed efforts were underway to fill the post, but revealed difficulties in providing locum cover remained a real possibility.
“Interviews are taking place for the permanent post in the next few weeks,” the correspondence read.
“This post will provide service to Longford and Mullingar. If the current locum is successful at interview there will remain a problem with locum cover.”
The HSE official said while the executive was “doing everything possible” options were “limited” with consideration of service provision at both Athlone and Mullingar currently on the table.
Local councillor and long time health advocate Cllr Peggy Nolan reacted to the news by calling for an immediate meeting between Longford County Council’s sub committee and HSE management.
And in a thinly veiled attack on the agency, the Fine Gael councillor accused health bosses of being “negligent” when it came to upholding Longford’s current compliment of health services.
“This (opthamologist going on maternity leave) was flagged some time ago so why is there only action being taken now?” Cllr Nolan tersely asked.
“As far as I am concerned, this is only part of the rot that for so long has been allowed to set in Longford and for as long as I am involved in local politics, is something that I will not allow to happen.
“The way I see it is the management are being negligent when it comes to service provision in Longford.”
If there were strong words for the HSE, a similarly abrupt appraisal was also directed at her own party colleague, Health Minister Simon Harris.
“I have to say I am very disappointed that despite a promise to visit (the county) last August Simon Harris hasn’t bothered to come to Longford,” she said.
Cllr Nolan was more complimentary of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during his time as Health Minister.
More pointedly, Cllr Nolan lamented how a clinical assessment of St Joseph’s promised by the former health minister had failed to materialise upon his transfer to the Department of Social Protection.
“The goalposts unfortunately changed. Had it been done I believe we (Longford) would have been in an ideal position (to protect and extend services at St Joseph’s) because the main issue here is the amount of capacity that is being wasted,” she said.
“This (opthalmology service) can’t be allowed to slide and what this has shown is that the public are again being treated as second class citizens.”

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