HSE confirms closure of pain clinic in Drogheda
Some 203 patients referred back to GPs because no replacement consultant available
Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. Louth county councillor Imelda Munster said “it is unacceptable to remove a vital service such as a chronic pain clinic and expect people in chronic pain to travel even further away”
The HSE in the northeast has said that 203 patients who had been on a waiting list to see a specialist in a chronic pain clinic have been referred back to their GPs because there is no consultant to run the service.
The consultant anaesthetist, who had treated 161 patients in the 10 months he operated the clinic, “left our employment”, it said.
“We have been unsuccessful in recruiting a clinician with the same expertise and therefore are no longer able to provide this service,” it added.
The issue came to light after patients who believed they were on a waiting list for the chronic pain clinic in got a letter saying that as the HSE could not recruit a consultant, it could not provide the service and had “closed the waiting list for it”.
The HSE said the service ran from February to December 2012, “when the consultant left our employment”.
The 203 patients who had been on a waiting list to be seen have now been referred back to their GPs.
One woman, who has a debilitating auto-immune condition, said: “My only option is to be referred to Dublin, face a wait of possibly years and, in the interim, simply deal with the pain. The back pain I live with is bad but it pales in comparison to the type of severe, chronic, debilitating pain that many folks live with.
“To suggest that it’s OK to simply dump people onto a waiting list in another huge catchment area is appalling.”
The woman, who lives in Drogheda, said: “I feel the excuse of not having been able to find a replacement consultant entirely disingenuous. My options now are either pay for a private pain specialist or simply deal with the pain. Financially, like a lot of people at the moment, the former is simply not an option.”
Louth county councillor Imelda Munster said the service had to be restored.
“The Lourdes Hospital covers an area of four counties with a population of 300,000 and it is unacceptable to remove a vital service such as a chronic pain clinic and expect people in chronic pain to travel even further away,” she said.
She urged the HSE to find a new consultant and maintain the clinic as otherwise patients needing this specialised care would have to “seek another referral to either the Mater or Beaumont and wait on another waiting list in order to get an appointment”.