Delays in eye care may lead to patients going blind

Conor Breslin

Up to 100,000 patients are set to endure delays on trolleys this year.

Patients in the south of the country may go blind as a result of delays in the provision of eye care, hospital consultants have warned.

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said at its annual conference in Galway on October 6th that the widespread and chronic shortage of hospital consultants, beds and other facilities in public hospitals was severely impacting patient care across the country.

IHCA President Dr Donal O’Hanlon said a combination of having one of the lowest numbers of specialist hospital consultants in Europe and over 500 unfilled posts were resulting in patients not being able to access timely medical care.

Dr O’Hanlon said in the eye surgery services in Cork around 6,000 patients were awaiting outpatient reviews.

“Consultants are concerned that some patients will lose vision permanently and irreversibly as a result of the delays,” he said.

It was also announced that over 6,500 children are waiting for an MRI and ultrasound scans in Crumlin and Temple St Hospitals, while over 220 patients with significant brain injuries or stroke are waiting to be admitted to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dublin.

Dr O’Hanlon also warned the number of patients enduring delays on trolleys are set to top 100,000 for the first time this year, forcing the cancellation of surgery for waiting list patients.

“Patients are deteriorating on lengthy waiting lists and the State is putting in place sticking plaster solutions of outsourcing through NTPF [National Treatment Purchase Fund] or facilitating patients to travel abroad for operations that have for decades been provided in our public hospitals”, he said.

In Galway University Hospital capacity constraints resulted in over half of patients planned for surgery, in certain specialties, not being operated on because no beds were available despite the theatre and staff being ready to operate. Whilst in the Mater Hospital all elective admissions except cancer patients were cancelled and in St James’s Hospital, 4 of the 13 operating theatres were closed due to inadequate resources in terms of beds and staff.

Conor Breslin

Image Credit: Opticians Midleton