BY CHRIS KILPATRICK
A DERVOCK man who was told his toddler son would have to wait almost a year for an operation on his face says the waiting time for such a procedure is now 75 weeks.
Steven Phillips blasted the news as “totally unacceptable” and has set up a Facebook page hitting out at the lengthy periods people are being told they may have to wait for dermatology procedures in the Causeway area.
In September we reported how Mr Phillips had made an official complaint to the Northern Health and Social Care Trust after being told two-year-old Theo would have to wait a year for treatment to a lump on his face.
He said the lump frequently bled causing blood to run into the eye of the terrified youngster.
Theo had the problem dealt with privately in the end and Mr Phillips sought assurances from the Trust that action would be taken to tackle waiting times.
Indeed in a statement to this newspaper at the time, a spokesperson for Northern Trust said:
“Due to the very high demand for dermatology services the current waiting time for an urgent referral is 55 weeks.
“The Trust is currently working with the Health and Social Care Board to reduce the waiting times.
“Two additional senior clinicians were recently appointed and further investment is under review to ensure waiting times can be dramatically reduced.
“We would like to apologise to the Phillips family for the inconvenience and distress this has caused.”
But rather than cut the waiting time it appears to have shot up by over five months in that time, according to Mr Phillips.
He told the Times: “It would appear after last week’s meeting of the Dermatology Support Group at the Causeway Hospital that things have gone from bad to worse with regard to the waiting times.
“When I highlighted my son Theo’s plight it got a lot of coverage in the media and at that time the waiting list was 55 weeks. The waiting list now stands at 75 weeks.
“This is totally unacceptable. We were told that new staff were to be made available but the fact is one full-time doctor retired and was replaced by two part-time doctors.
“When will the Northern Trust start to listen to the needs of the people of the Northern Area especially here in Causeway?
“We have set up a Facebook page which we hope to build upon entitled ‘Skin Matters’. We hope to use the power of this new medium to highlight the failings of the Northern Trust with regard to the lack of dermatology services at the Causeway.”
Mr Phillips claimed a surgeon previously admitted to him the health system had ‘failed his family’.
He grew concerned when he noticed a lump on the child’s face.
It was diagnosed by a doctor as a Pyogenic Granuloma - a reddish bump on the skin which bleeds easily due to an abnormally high number of blood vessels.
Theo was referred to the Causeway Hospital’s Dermatology Department in April and returned for a second referral in May. Mr Phillips said he was told it would be at least 40 weeks before the lump could be treated, if the case was considered urgent.
“I took him privately to a doctor who said it was actually plastics we would have to see,” said Mr Phillips.
“She referred him to a plastic surgeon who we saw within a matter of days.”
He said the specialist surgeon’s exact words were “the system has failed you”.
The surgeon carried out the operation in August at Belfast City Hospital - and didn’t charge the Phillips family for his work.
Mr Phillips subsequently made an official complaint to the Trust in charge of the Causeway Hospital.
In a letter to the family, the Northern Trust apologised for the “totally unacceptable” situation.
Mr Phillips said he felt people on the north coast were getting a second-class service compared to those in Belfast.
He said: “Is this a postcode lottery?
“It’s absolute craziness.”
The Times contacted the Northern Trust on Thursday but had not received a reply at the time of going to print.