Arthritis group calls for appointment of six consultants
Sufferers gather at Leinster House to attract support from TDs and election candidates
Colleen White (9), Finglas, who suffers from juvenile arthritis, with her mother Rachael at the launch of the Arthritis Ireland Why are we waiting? campaign. Photograph: Eric Luke /The Irish Times
People suffering with the debilitating condition rheumatoid arthritis have called for the appointment of six new consultants to tackle a waiting list of 12,600 who have yet to see a specialist.
Arthritis patients, many of them adults and children already waiting years for treatment, took their campaign to politicians in Leinster House on Tuesday and called on TDs and general election candidates to support them.
The pre-election campaign entitled Why are we waiting? was organised by the advocacy and support group Arthritis Ireland.
It asked candidates and TDs to become arthritis champions and to support its 100-day plan to reduce waiting lists and save on the “colossal costs of undiagnosed and untreated arthritis”.
Nearly a million people across Ireland are living with arthritis, according to the organisation. “Some 12,600 people are waiting in crippling pain to see a rheumatology consultant, including 455 children. With delayed treatment, many people are heading towards disability.”
Arthritis Ireland chief executive John Church said there were not enough consultant rheumatologists in the country.
“We’ve got about 35. We need another 12, but we are calling for six – that’s our compromise.”
The organisation estimates 29 clinical nurse specialists, 12 advanced nurse practitioners, 21 physiotherapists and 32 occupational therapists are required to support the six new consultant posts.
Mr Church said there was “regular, ongoing engagement” with the health authorities.
“Clearly, they have their priorities. But what we’re saying here is that the patient population here is bigger than any patient population. But also, it’s a chronic disease, so if you’ve got it, you’ve got it for the rest of your life and you’ve got to learn how to live with it. If you don’t intervene early, it costs the health system a hell of a lot more than six consultants.”
Deborah Crummey (37) from Naas, Co Kildare, who came to Dublin to support the campaign on Tuesday was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis about five years ago after waiting a long time for a diagnosis.
She had been suffering very bad swelling and joint pain, but has a particular type of arthritis that does not show up in blood tests.
She is on medication, including immunosuppressants.
“I’m being moved from Tallaght hospital to Naas hospital, which in a way is great for me being from Naas. But it means for the occupational therapists and things like that, I’m on a new waiting list again.
“The rheumatologists work between the two hospitals and for that part you’re okay. But for everything else, you’re waiting,” she said.
Ms Crummey said she had just commenced a Tús community placement course to help her get back into work.
“I’d prefer to be working and not dependent on the Government. At the moment, I could do with seeing an occupational therapist and going through things that will help me to be able to cope in the workplace with pain and tiredness, but I don’t know the waiting times on the list at the moment. I was literally transferred over last week.”