The story of Jackie Keogh
Independent TD, Michael Collins and Harro Feddersen from Ahakista, take a breath on cataract bus from Belfast to West Cork.
Following the huge success of cataract buses, which have already brought 250 people from southwestern Belfast to changing surgeries, a similar service has been launched to replace the hip and knee.
Knee and hip "express" was announced this week by West Cork's Independent TD, Michael Collins, who organized cross-border operations with his colleague Dail, Kerry TD Danny Healy Rae.
And Deputy Collins hit the government for demanding a cut of 3,100 people on the waiting list for cataract surgery in the past 13 months.
Deputy Collins says the figure, which was announced in a press release from the Health Department last week, "glosses" over the reality of the situation on the ground.
Responding to the long waiting lists in West Cork and Kerry, Collins and Healy Rae deputies felt compelled to organize regular bus service at Kingsbridge Private Hospital in Belfast this year last year.
And, after an article appeared South Star In November last year, highlighting the 90-year-old John Patrick Harrington's northern journey to the life-changing cataract operation, the two Dail deputies were flooded with local queries.
This week, Deputy Collins said that it is not surprising that waiting list figures fell when an estimated 2,200 of these people went outside the state as part of the cross-border directive – an initiative that allows each person to recover the director's cost Health Service.
In 2014, before the details of the cross-border directive were known, only seven people took advantage of it, said Goleen TD.
Deputy Collins said that he and Deputy Healy Rae now helped 250 people traveling north on 16 so-called "cataract express" buses for surgery, and another 50 people will travel with three other buses before Christmas.
He said they are now expanding service to include people who need to travel north to meet hip and knee replacement consultants as well as other surgical procedures such as tonsillitis and treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Already, he said, helped 35 of these people to provide treatment for hip surgery and another 20 who had knee surgery.
Collins described a € 1 million investment in a new cataract center at the Nenagh hospital, which was opened earlier this week as "long ago," and said he wrote to Secretary Harris asking to make a similar investment in Bantry General Hospital.
Last Sunday, Minister Simon Harris said: "This year, improvements have been made to waiting list numbers and, in particular, to special procedures, including cataract. While improvements in the total number of waiting for a cataract have made sustained improvements, they are all the more notable when counting numbers that are waiting for over nine months, which have fallen by 80% since July 2017. "