The failure to return medial equipment cost the taxpayer in the Western Health Trust area almost £750,000 last year.
A Western Trust spokeswoman revealed that of the 19,485 pieces of equipment loaned out over the past 12 months, at a cost of £3,517,457, only 53 per cent, or 10,390 items were returned, equating to a loss of £727,305 - money that could be spent elsewhere in health provision locally.
It has transpired that many of the unreturned items are finding their way into skips and dump sites as well as recycling centres, instead of being re-used.
Alderman Mary Hamilton said she had been horrified last week to see the contents of a house at Fountain Hill being thrown into a skip, which included a shower seat and toilet aid, in perfect condition.
“I regularly go to the re-cycling centre for people and I am amazed at the amount of medical equipment that also finds its way into these places, when they should be returned to the occupational therapy department,” she said.
“But when I saw the equipment in the skip it made me so mad. The Trust is under severe pressure financially to meet all the demands being made on it and here we have perfect equipment being thrown out like rubbish. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
“People across this city and particularly the elderly are crying out for this kind of equipment and here it is in a skip for dumping. I appeal to people not to be so wasteful and return equipment if someone goes into a home or passes on. There are so many more people that need things and they can’t get them because there is no money to buy it.” Meanwhile, MLA Gary Middleton said that half the Northern Ireland budget went to the health Service and at a time when the pressure was on to make savings it was deeply concerning to learn that quality equipment was disappearing into skips and dump sites.
“This is equipment that could easily be re-used and a lot of money could be saved,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Western Health Trust it was important to return equipment that is no longer required to the service that issued the item.
“The Trust endeavours to collect equipment which is no longer required and there is a high recycling rate for equipment. Patients/clients or family/carers can contact the community equipment store to arrange collection. The Trust also has an arrangement with Derry City and Strabane District Council for the setting aside/return of any equipment set out for rubbish disposal by householders.”