Independent TD for Cork South-West Michael Collins has described the latest eye-care waiting list numbers released by Optometry Ireland (OI) as “an appalling indictment of a broken and brutalising health care system that is apparently incapable of bringing about the kind of reforming initiatives required to save the sight of children and adults alike.”
Deputy Collins, who this weekend successfully organised his phenomenally in-demand Belfast or Blind bus for the 113th time, went on to say that “the state of eye-care in the Republic has left behind a legacy of lost opportunities and avoidable pain in thousands of homes across west Cork and the country at large”:
The buses have brought Irish patients, who are often in fear of losing their sight, to Belfast for essential eye-care including cataract treatment.
“The fact that there are now 42,300 people on the eye-care waiting list will be devastating news for many families desperately trying to access a vital service within a limited window of opportunity,” said Deputy Collins.
“Only this weekend I had three people on our full Belfast or Blind bus that were blind in one eye. If they did not have the opportunity to travel with us, they would have faced certain and total blindness because of the ongoing inability of accessing treatment services locally.”
“It is a personal tragedy if a person goes blind, but it is a national tragedy if our so-called political remain blind to the scale of the problems that we are facing in this area,” he said.
Figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) to December 2022 showed 42,300 people on eyecare waiting lists: 33,268 people were on the outpatient eye-care waiting list – with more than 12,118 of these waiting more than a year.
“Optometry Ireland have set out a series of reasonable and practical reforms that are needed to at least stem the tide of suffering that lack of eye-care is creating and I want to say that I fully support them in this, in particularly OI’s call for a national eye-care scheme for 8–16-year-old children.”
“This kind of gaping hole in our service provision cannot and should not be tolerated for one moment longer.”
“I will continue to do all that I can to fill the gap with our Belfast or Blind buses; because quite honestly the level of demand is showing no signs of slowing down as todays numbers sadly confirm,” Deputy Collins concluded.