Kerry residents forced to travel to Belfast to save their sight
It’s a journey of over five hours and around 300 miles, but for many Kerry locals, a trip to Belfast has never been more essential.
Waiting lists for cataract surgery in the Republic are so long that thousands of people have been sent across the border for treatment in Northern Ireland.
“The best way to describe this service is that I’m ashamed it has to be there,” said local TD Michael Healy Rae. Newstalk breakfast.
“But I am very happy to be able to help and facilitate people if necessary.”
For many elderly patients, the journey is long and arduous, but the consequences of not traveling and waiting for treatment on the spot are profound:
“I said it too bluntly,” Deputy Healy Rae continued.
“If your cataract is ripe and time is against you, the best way to describe it is that you could very well lose your sight.
“I know people who didn’t come to see me in time and went blind in that eye. Unfortunately we have people in Kerry today who are blind and the reason they are blind is that the cataract was not removed in time.
“Ideally we need more services provided [locally].”
I boarded one of the “cataract buses” that go to Belfast.
Patients tell me that they have been waiting years for treatment in the Republic.
—Josh Crosbie (@JoshCrosbie3) August 30, 2022
Cathay Sheehan from Glenbeigh was on the bus for the second time. Until the first trip, she had never been to Belfast, but she knew she had no choice but to wait years for the treatment that would change her life.
“I would love to have him in Kerry,” she said wistfully.
“But it goes on and on.”
Waiting lists are so long that some patients have needed treatment for more than a decade. One such woman is Maureen from Killorglin and her son Pat said his eyesight has gotten “pretty bad” in recent years:
“She had her right eye done in 2011 and they told her that in six or eight months she would need the second one and we’ve been on the waiting list ever since,” he said wearily. .
“We were in Cork last October to have the right eye checked but haven’t heard from him since.
“She’s been on the waiting list since 2011 and when I called Cork last October to ask about it, of course they blamed COVID…but [the hospital official] she told me that at first glance it would be 2025 before she was done.
Main image: Cataract surgery. Photo by: Alamy.com