Long waiting lists for cataract surgery is short-sighted

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“Unbelievably high,” is how a Limerick TD has described the waiting list for cataract surgery, with more than 6,000 people awaiting the procedure.

Sinn Féin Deputy Maurice Quinlivan said the waiting lists and most notably the waiting times, for cataract surgery for older people are unbelievably high.

But in the Mid West, the HSE has told the Limerick Post that cataract waiting lists have been almost halved since the opening of a specialist centre in Nenagh Hospital.

Deputy Quinlivan said that figures released to Sinn Féin by the HSE have detailed the extent of the long waiting times and waiting lists for cataract surgery across the State.

“There are now 6,151 people on waiting lists for cataract surgery, and most worryingly of all is that 256 of these people have been waiting more than a year for treatment.

“274 older people are awaiting this sight-saving surgery at University Hospital Limerick, 35 of them having waited over a year so far, which is completely unacceptable.

“Cataract procedures usually take around ten minutes to perform, yet there are more than 6,000 patients waiting on an operation across the state.

“Patients suffer when they have to wait for cataract surgery, they lose sight, they lose independence, they can have accidents from falls, and all this costs patients’ and the health service more.

Deputy Quinlivan pointed to the award-winning Sligo Cataract Scheme with the Association of Optometrists Ireland confirming that the Sligo-Leitrim constituency has the shortest waiting time in the State as a result of this cost-neutral scheme.

“This scheme needs to be rolled out nationwide, so Optometrists and Hospital Eye Departments can work together to reduce these waiting lists,” he declared.

In a statement, a spokesman for the UHL hospitals groups said that since the opening of the UL Hospitals Cataract Centre at Nenagh Hospital, the inpatient waiting list has seen a 44.7 per cent reduction in the overall number of patients between July 2018 and July 2019.

“The number of our patients waiting six months or longer for a cataract procedure has fallen by 79.7 per cent in the same time period.

“The UL Hospitals Cataract Centre at Nenagh Hospital, a centre for excellence for cataract treatment, is set to meet its target of 1,400 patients treated by the end of 2019,” the spokesman added.