The small island community on Inishturk is facing its first Christmas ever without basic medical cover.
The island’s nurse retired last September and hasn’t been replaced by the HSE.
“After contacting the HSE on numerous occasions, we are still without any medical care on the island,” said community worker on Inishturk, Mary Heanue.
Concerns are now growing that cuts to medical services will pose a further threat to the already fragile island communities off Mayo, which are a unique part of the county’s cultural heritage.
Inishturk is located nine miles off the coastline with a population of 58. The absence of any official medical cover is even more concerning as the island’s young people return home to spend Christmas with their families, added Ms Heanue. “We have had two days of medical cover since September 20,” she said. “This is totally inadequate. The HSE has assured us that the post is being filled but can’t tell us when the nurse will begin her duties.”
Ms Heanue said the island lost its locum cover in 2009.
According to Comhdha?il Oilea?in na hE?ireann (the Irish Islands Federation ), islanders on A?rainn Mho?r, County Donegal, had to mobilise the community earlier this year to resist cutbacks to vital public health nursing cover for the island.
The community on Inis Oi?rr, Co Galway, have had its cover reduced since April, from a resident public health nurse providing five day cover to a registered general nurse who travels to the island two days a week, weather permitting.
Cape Clear, Co Cork, faces similar challenges, and islanders in Mayo and across the country are extremely worried that any further reduction in services will have a disproportionate impact on the already fragile island communities, says Comhdha?il Oilea?in na hE?ireann (the Irish Islands Federation ).
Comhdha?il Oilea?in na hE?ireann is now seeking an urgent meeting with HSE officials to discuss the serious concerns of islanders about the provision of healthcare on the offshore islands.
“Islanders of necessity must have qualified medical professionals available in the case of medical need or outright emergency,” said Mairtin O? Me?alo?id, chairman of Comhdha?il Oilea?in na hE?ireann.
“Nursing services, and indeed the assurance of continuation of these vital services, is and always will be a key element to the sustainability of our island communities.
“We need a clear and firm islands policy on a national level to ensure continued service provision, and to eliminate the existing uncertainty around health services.”