More than 300 chiropody appointments per month have been taken out of communities in Galway and centralised to Merlin Park Hospital, but instead of improving services, centralisation has "made life a lot more difficult for" patients.
This is the view of Sinn Féin city councillor Mairéad Farrell, who was commenting on figures provided by the HSE which show that among the Mervue, Shantalla, and Ballybane clinics, 360 podiatry appointments per month were being provided in the community until 2011.
The figures emerged following a Dáil question by SF health spokesperson, Dep Louise O’Reilly, to the Health Minister, Simon Harris. The HSE released figures outlining the full impact of changes in the provision of podiatry care in Galway as a result of the review of services carried out in early 2012.
The HSE stated that from January 2009 to September 2011, the Galway PCCC Podiatry department "had a reduction in whole time equivalent staff of 3.5 WTE due to retirements, maternity leave and secondments into hospital services" and that "these posts were not replaced". The statement added that, on the back of a review on service provision in March 2012, services in outlying clinics such as Shantalla, Mervue, and Ballybane were closed and "clients at risk of foot complications" were offered services in Merlin Park Podiatry Clinic.
Cllr Farrell acknowledges the centralised service in Merlin Park provides "services not available anywhere else in the country in state of the art clinic facilities". However she said this "doesn’t take away from the distress caused to people who previously accessed these facilities in the comfort of their own community. I have previously highlighted the difficulties faced by people in accessing chiropody services in the city since they were taken out of the community. Many elderly people, in Mervue particularly, have contacted me as they feel that life has been made a lot more difficult for them since these changes were implemented."
Cllr Farrell said "ending of community-based service provision" in a city where there is a "limited public transport network" should be "avoided". She said: "If anything it is de-centralisation of services that is needed, along with the introduction of a new and single integrated hospital waiting list management system."