Fear as top Arthritis doc quits UHK
KERRY PATIENTS SAY THEY FEAR FOR THE FUTURE AFTER CONSULTANT’S SHOCK RESIGNATION
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.”
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.