THERE were 4,677 people waiting for eyecare procedures and appointments at University Hospital Limerick at the end of last year with more than 1,200 waiting more than 18 months.
Many of those are elderly patients were awaiting a cataract operation, a fast and relatively uncomplicated procedure.
This comes as optometrists have warned that waiting lists for eyecare remains unacceptably high, noting that they have available capacity to get more patients seen sooner.
According to figures provided to the Limerick Post and based on the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) to December 2022, there are 3,907 people waiting for an outpatient appointment and 770 waiting for a day or inpatient procedure date.
Of those waiting for outpatient appointments, 1,248 have waited upwards of 18 months.
560 have been waiting for between a year and 18 months, while 807 have been on the list between six and 12 months.
1,292 are relatively new additions to the waiting list, having been on it for less than six months.
The inpatient list includes thirteen patients waiting between one year and 18 months for their treatments, 273 waiting between six months and a year, and 483 waiting up to six months.
Nationally there were 33,268 people on the outpatient eyecare waiting list, with more than 12,118 of these waiting more than a year. 9,108 were awaiting inpatient eye procedures, with almost 1,000 people waiting a year or more. This figure increased further to 9,463 at the end of January 2023
Optometry Ireland chief executive Sean McCrave called on the HSE and Department of Health to engage with optometrists to make greater use of the capacity and expertise that the profession has available, helping free up hospital and HSE resources in doing so.
“There are 300 optometry practices and 700 practitioners who are highly trained, have state of the art equipment, and have available capacity to provide more public services.
“It is 50 per cent less expensive to provide routine examinations, monitoring, and care in the community via local optometrists than in the hospital system,” he said.
“We are highlighting this solution to the HSE and they are failing to take the initiative, even though the reforms we propose are already successfully in health systems across Europe.
“Doing so would enable earlier diagnosis, earlier treatment, and better outcomes for patients,” Mr McCrave added.