Extraordinary ophthalmology waiting lists point to need for radical change of approach

Aindreas Moynihan

Cork North West TD Aindrias Moynihan has said that people’s quality of life and in particular, the quality of life for older people, is being severely damaged and curtailed, as a result of extraordinary and worsening waiting lists for ophthalmological treatments.

Deputy Moynihan was commenting after a recent parliamentary question to the Minister for Health showed that 6318 people are currently waiting for an outpatient appointment at Cork University Hospital, including 1158 people waiting longer than 18 months.

“What’s startling is that nearly one in five people, in the country, who are waiting for an outpatient appointment, are waiting at CUH. Nationally, there are 34,675 on an outpatient waiting list.

“What the Minister for Health must understand is that these are people with real lives to live. Unfortunately, many of these patients are in the latter stages of their life, and the delays in them receiving treatment for eye conditions are having a terrible impact on their quality of life.

“One lady, in her 70s, who was in touch with me recently, will lose her driving license unless she receives treatment for her cataracts. It’s made worse by the fact that if her eyesight deteriorates further, she won’t even be able to use the local bus service to visit her son.

“There needs to be a change in how we deal with these waiting lists. We are too reliant on doctors in hospitals to deal with the waiting lists. While the main procedures must take place in a hospital scenario, we should be making use of opticians in the community to do some of the preliminary assessments and diagnostics.

“This ‘Sligo Model’ is currently in use in the North West and has been seen to deal with the backlogs on the waiting lists.

“The local HSE group should consider changing its systems, and practices, to utilise, to the fullest extent, the skills and expertise in the community.

“We cannot allow these waiting lists to stay. People’s lives are being ruined, and it’s time that we looked at different ways of addressing them,” concluded Moynihan.