ALMOST 4,000 people have been waiting more than a year for an eye appointment at Cork University Hospital (CUH), it has been revealed.
Figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) show that in April of this year, 7,471 patients were awaiting an ophthalmology appointment in the hospital’s outpatient department.
This represents an increase of almost 1,200 patients since the same time last year.
More than half of these patients have been on the waiting list for more than a year, including 2,633 who have been waiting over 18 months to be seen.
NTPF figures show that 1,513 people were awaiting outpatient ophthalmology appointments in CUH in April last year.
The latest figures from last month show an increase of 1,120 patients in this category.
Earlier this year, the Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI) said people in Cork are waiting up to five years for cataract surgery.
Last year, all five ophthalmic surgeons at CUH warned that eye patients attending the service risked losing their vision “permanently and irreversibly” because of appointment delays.
In a letter to the hospital’s risk manager, the surgeons claimed the hospital “must accept full responsibility for any adverse consequences” to patients as a result of failure to adequately resource doctors.
The doctors warned that patient appointments were delayed beyond what is “clinically recommended” due to a lack of capacity.
They added that, as a result, the risk of patients losing vision as a direct result of delays in their appointments was “unacceptably high”.
Delays in Cork and across Ireland has seen people turn to the Cross Border Directive (CBD) for eye surgery and appointments.
More than 300 people have travelled to Belfast from Cork since October 2017 to undergo the eye surgery under the CBD.
Under the scheme, those who undergo surgery following the eight hour journey are entitled to a reimbursement from the HSE.
Independent TD for West Cork, Michael Collins, who began organising buses to Belfast in September 2017, said he regularly receives up to five calls a day or more from people seeking cataract surgery and eye appointments.
The CUH has been contacted for comment.