Fear as top Arthri­tis doc quits UHK


The Kerryman (South Kerry Edition) - - NEWS - BY TADHG EVANS & SI­MON BROUDER

ARTHRI­TIS suf­fer­ers in Kerry are deeply con­cerned af­ter UHK Consultant Rheuma­tol­o­gist Dr Muham­mad Ha­roon told Arthri­tis Ire­land Kerry Branch that he had re­signed.

Branch chair­per­son Tom Bar­rett said the com­mit­tee un­der­stood that Dr Ha­roon had stepped down due to a long-run­ning dis­agree­ment with hospi­tal man­age­ment re­lat­ing to his need for tem­po­rary hu­man­i­tar­ian leave to care for his se­ri­ously ill fa­ther in Pak­istan.

In com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Arthri­tis Ire­land that were seen by The Ker­ry­man, Dr Ha­roon – who had worked at Univer­sity Hospi­tal Kerry since 2013 and over­saw a sig­nif­i­cant ex­pan­sion of Rheuma­tol­ogy ser­vices at the hospi­tal – said he didn’t want to quit.

“I sim­ply was look­ing for ex­ten­sion of un­paid leave and would have been happy to re­turn in few months time,” he said.

He also ex­pressed con­cerns about the re­cruit­ment of his suc­ces­sor and said it would have been eas­ier for the HSE to find cover for the tem­po­rary ab­sence he had been seek­ing rather than find­ing a full-time re­place­ment.

“From what I have heard there will be much longer de­lay in get­ting a per­ma­nent res­i­dent rheuma­tol­o­gist, prob­a­bly years, rather than al­low­ing me few months of un­paid leave,” said Dr Ha­roon. “For ex­am­ple, Lim­er­ick’s Rheuma­tol­o­gist re­signed prob­a­bly five years ago, and the post has not been filled since. Gal­way’s rheuma­tol­o­gist re­signed prob­a­bly two years ago, and in spite of very se­ri­ous ef­forts, the post was only ad­ver­tised cou­ple of weeks ago. Prob­a­bly it will take much longer to find some­one to start this post (at UHK),” he added.

Be­hind the news of Dr Ha­roon’s res­ig­na­tion, there are per­sonal sto­ries, both Ger Collins and Mr Bar­rett of the Arthri­tis Ire­land Kerry Branch ex­plained to The Ker­ry­man.

James Ma­her and Caro­line Kennedy are two such peo­ple. All four are seek­ing re­as­sur­ance that a re­place­ment will be ap­pointed promptly, while Mr Ma­her and Ms Kennedy, both of whom were rich in praise for Dr Ha­roon, ex­plained that trav­el­ling long dis­tances for cru­cial treat­ment is not work­able.

Caro­line was di­ag­nosed with rheuma­toid arthri­tis in 2000 and re­ceived in­jec­tions which can only be pre­scribed by a Rheuma­tol­o­gist. She saw Dr Ha­roon ev­ery three months, had op­er­a­tions on her hand and shoul­der from him, and said that with­out her in­jec­tions she would not be able to walk.

“If he goes, I don’t know where I’ll be,” she said. “I won’t walk; I’ve been di­ag­nosed in my spine re­cently.

“We fought for this Rheuma­tol­o­gist; we did ev­ery­thing. I hope we’re not wait­ing five years for an­other one.”

“I need to see a spe­cial­ist quite reg­u­larly, and trav­el­ling up to the likes of Cork would not be suit­able,” Mr Ma­her, who has arthri­tis and pso­ri­a­sis, said. “I get up in the morn­ing, put on my heat packs, and do ex­er­cises, so trav­el­ling would be a night­mare.”

Mr Bar­rett and Mr Collins said they hold the staff and ser­vices at UHK in high re­gard and that their fight is not against man­age­ment but for their own well-be­ing. They also want to see ser­vices go­ing for­ward, not back­ward.

“Some peo­ple are on wait­ing lists for a year and a half,” said Mr Bar­rett. “In­flam­ma­tory arthri­tis can dam­age your heart, your lungs, your kid­neys, your liver.

“We don’t know how many peo­ple ex­actly are on wait­ing lists, we think it’s around 500, but we can’t get the fig­ures. We’d like peo­ple to mes­sage Face­book at www.face­book.com/Arthri­tisIre­landKer­ryBranch/ to get some idea.”

Just be­fore print, a spokesper­son for South South West Hospi­tal Group said: “Univer­sity Hospi­tal Kerry can con­firm that there is a locum consultant rheuma­tol­o­gist in place. The hospi­tal is cur­rently in the process of re­cruit­ing to fill this post.”

Photo by Dom­nick Walsh

Tom Bar­rett Chair­man of Kerry Arthri­tis Ire­land , James Ma­her Kerry Arthri­tis Ire­land , Ger Collins Trea­surer of the Kerry Arthri­tis Ire­land and Caro­line Kennedy of Kerry Arthri­tis Ire­land pic­tured in Tralee’s Town Park.

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