DESPITE the Department of Health claiming that cataract waiting lists are being dealt with, a Cork TD insists that demand for cataract surgery has never been higher.
The National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) published their progress update on cataract waiting lists which show that by the end of September there were just over 6,600 on the waiting lists. This is a 33% reduction since July 2017 when it stood at over 10,000.
The Department of Health claims that a new cataract surgery centre in Tipperary, opened yesterday, will provide 2,000 surgeries in 2019.
However, Cork West TD, Michael Collins (Ind), who organises buses to Belfast for people to undergo cataract surgery, said demand for the service is only increasing.
“I’ve had more calls in the past few weeks than I did four or five months ago,” he said.
“With the waiting times here in the Republic, many people feel that Belfast is the only option for them.”
Patients travelling from Cork to Belfast for cataract surgery can avail of it using the Cross-Border Directive (CBD) scheme, where they pay for the surgery at the hospital and then get a full refund from the HSE after.
Since the CBD was set up in 2014, a total of €15 million has been spent on treating more than 5,400 patients.
“Seven people travelled to Belfast under the CBD in 2014,” said Mr Collins.
“So far this year, around 2,600 have gone and we expect this to go beyond 3,000 by the end of the year.
“These figures show that things are not being dealt with correctly.”
Minister for Health, Simon Harris, yesterday officially opened the UL Hospitals Cataract Centre at Nenagh Hospital.
The centre will cater for patients from the UL Hospital Group, Midwest and surrounding areas.
The Department said the centre will deliver over 2,000 procedures next year.
“Cork people are still waiting for cataract surgery, many have been waiting months or years,” said Mr Collins.
“I have two buses organised for this month, another on December 21 and two more in January and they’re all full. I’ve been trying to secure more operations in Kingsbridge hospital in Belfast for the people who have been contacting me, but they’re saying they’re fully booked.
“The Government need to open centres in Cork city, Bantry and beyond to address this crisis.”