SERIOUS concerns have been raised about changes to local health care services that have been made without any consultation with the public.
On top of that, Cllr Adam Gannon has even gone so far as to question whether moving all cataract surgery to a facility in Magherafelt was even legal without that consultation.
Last October the Department of Health announced, as part of a new Elective Care Plan, the commonly-needed eye surgery would no longer be carried out in Omagh, but would be moved to Magherafelt in south Derry. It said this would improve waiting times, adding no permanent changes would be made without public consultation and ministerial approval.
Since then local cataract patients have been told, via an unsigned letter from the Western Trust, that their surgery has been moved to Magherafelt. They have also been moved from the waiting list they were on to a new ‘central’ waiting list. That is despite no public consultation taking place yet, and no minister in place to make the decision.
Permenant Secretary Richard Pengelly said in May this year the Magherafelt centre was “a prototype” and a public consultation was still in the pipeline. There has been no update since on when the consultation will take place.
“Obviously because it’s a public service, and the public are paying for it, before any significant changes, such as this, can take place we have to have a public consultation because it’s public money being spent. That’s the law,” said Cllr Gannon.
He added: “Going to Magherafelt makes a big difference to people in Fermanagh. Can you just imagine they just made changes to the stroke unit without having a consultation?
“They are definitely running scared of the people of Fermanagh and don’t want to consult with us properly.”
Cllr Gannon said he had been corresponding with the Western Trust on the issue for several months, but the questions he had been asking about the consultation and waiting times had not been answered.
He added the Department also had quesitons to answer: “I am very concerned it has potentially broken the law here. It has questions to answer.”
‘We didn’t have to consult public over this’, insists health body
THE DEPARTMENT of Health has insisted it did not have to consult with the public about moving all cataract surgery to Magherafelt, and moving patients to a new waiting list, as the new Co Derry clinic is a “prototype.”
The Department said the cataract centre was part of its Elective Care Plan, which was first announced last October.
A spokesman said specialist centres showed “benefits in terms of productivity, quality, standardisation of approach, and workforce stability.”
“Prototype day case elective care centres have been established for two conditions, varicose veins and cataracts. It is expected that the prototype elective care centres will have a significant impact on the number of patients treated. For cataracts, this could mean up to 2,000 additional treatments annually.
“As these are prototypes, the plans were not subject to public consultation. The Department is developing proposals to transfer all appropriate day cases to regional elective care centres. This will be subject to public consultation and will be informed by an evaluation of the prototypes.”
The Western Trust declined to comment on surgeries being moved to Magherafelt, stating the decision had been made by the Department.