West Tyrone patients wait 20 weeks longer for knee surgery than south Belfast people
A PATIENT waiting on a knee operation in west Tyrone faces a delay of almost 20 weeks more than someone living in south Belfast.
The revelation comes after new figures were released by the Health Minister Michelle O'Neill detailing the average waiting times for hip and knee operations in the north.
Released following an Assembly question from West Belfast MLA Gerry Carroll the information highlights a startling disparity between waiting times in Belfast and those in the west.
A patient in West Tyrone faces an average wait of 45.7 weeks for a knee replacement operation and a 41.5 week delay for a hip replacement.
In stark contrast, someone in South Belfast has to contend with just a 26.6 week wait for both knee and hip replacement surgery.
Figures are also recorded in the areas of Foyle and Fermanagh and South Tyrone, where the average wait for a knee replacement exceeds 40 weeks
In Belfast, only a patient in the west of city scheduled for a hip replacement operation has to wait more than 30 weeks, while the lowest average waiting times are recorded in the Upper Bann constituency - 25.9 weeks for a knee replacement and 22.7 weeks for hip replacement surgery.
The figures detail the average waiting times in each constituency area as of June 30, 2016.
West Tyrone Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff said the waiting times were an "area of huge concern".
"I will be raising this matter directly and formally with the senior management team of the Western Health Trust this incoming week. There needs to be a better way than the current system of waiting lists which are excessive and unreasonable," he said.
Mr McElduff has pledged to seek "urgent strategies" and "action plans" to deliver equality in healthcare provision.
"I am determined to ensure that at ministerial and departmental level there is real awareness and understanding of a range of health inequalities that are experienced by people living in the Western Health Trust area at this time," he added.
In response to concerns over increasing waiting lists in the Western Trust area the Health Minister Michelle O'Neill has admitted staffing is an issue.
"The recent review of the orthopaedic medical workforce highlighted the current shortfall in Trauma and Orthopaedic (T&O) consultant posts and a range of appointments have been made across the trusts to address this including a locum Orthopaedic consultant post in the Western Trust," she said.
"My department is working closely with the Health and Social Care Board in developing an elective care plan to arrest the decline in elective waiting times and deliver sustainable improvements in the medium to longer term across all specialties," she added.