Parents of children with severe bowel problems have called for urgent meetings with health trust chiefs to discuss the current lack of a specialist consultant in Derry.
The parents say they have been forced to take their children to Belfast for treatment because a specialist paediatric gastroenterology consultant at Altnagelvin is currently off on sick leave and has not been replaced.
They said the journey to Belfast is very difficult as their children offer suffer from vomiting and diarrhoea.
One of the parents, Helen Doherty, a member of the locally formed support group, ‘Crohnscope,’ said it is not fair that the children should have to travel to Belfast.
“These children and young people are dealing with very sensitive problems and over the years they have built up relationships with the staff at Altnagelvin.
“The journey to Belfast is bad enough but then to have to explain sensitive issues around bowel movements to someone new is very distressing, particularly for young teenagers,” she explained.
Geraldine O’Hara, another member of group, said the current situation is at odds with the recommendations of a paediatric review carried out in 2012 which stressed the importance of providing care locally.
A spokesperson for the Western Health and Social Care Trust apologised to the parents for any inconvenience caused by the current staff shortage.
“The Trust is currently experiencing recruitment challenges in the specialist area of Paediatric Gastroenterology to cover an unplanned shortage in staff.
“The Trust is working with the Belfast Trust in the interim to ensure that patients requiring this service continue to receive it.
“The Trust apologises for any inconvenience caused to patients and their families and will continue to seek to return services to normal as soon as is possible,” the Western Trust spokesperson said.
The next meeting of the Crohnscope group will be held in lecture room 4 of the Clinical Excellence Centre (CEC) at Altnagelvin Hospital on Thursday at 7.30pm.