Fianna Fáil Senator Robbie Gallagher says new figures released by the Association of Optometrists Ireland reveals the true extent of the waiting list crisis for cataract surgery in Cavan and Monaghan.  Cataract patients can expect to wait 2 years for surgery on a public waiting list – compared to only three months if they can afford to go private.

Senator Gallagher commented, “The waiting list for cataract operations for people living in Cavan and Monaghan is completely unacceptable.  This surgery is considered routine and the fact that people are being forced to wait 2 years to have it carried out is most likely having an impact on their outcomes.  Their conditions could deteriorate substantially over a 2 year period, increasing the likelihood of a more complex procedure.

“People are now facing the choice of paying to go privately or to go across the border to have the operation if they qualify for the Cross Border Directive.

“Children’s waiting times are also a major cause for concern.  Under 12’s are facing a five month wait for an appointment, but more worryingly is the fact that the sixth class screening programme has been halted, with no local alternative put in place.  Great emphasis is put on early intervention in healthcare, however the combination of long waiting lists and the lack of a screening programme could lead to certain problems being overlooked or missed.

“This government promised to tackle waiting lists but it is failing abysmally.  Fianna Fáil secured the re-establishment of the National Treatment Purchase Fund, which has made some inroads into the problem but it is not the complete solution.

“The Health Minister needs to oversee the rollout of a comprehensive cataract scheme, similar to the one which operates in Sligo, and which has been an overwhelming success.  Sending people over the border or forcing them into private healthcare should not be the only options for patients in this country”.