'People are in real danger of going blind': Cataract theatre expected to open in Cork in 2021

'People are in real danger of going blind': Cataract theatre expected to open in Cork in 2021

 Bus travelling from Cork and Kerry to Kingsbridge, Belfast for cataract surgery patients in 2019. Pictured is Michael Collins TD with some of those making the trip to Belfast.

Calls have been made for the government to establish a dedicated cataract theatre in Cork in the near future.

Cork South West TD Michael Collins has made the call in the hope of helping patients who are currently experiencing long waiting times for cataract treatment.

“The biggest problem we face in Cork is we haven’t the proper theatres to carry out the procedures. There is talk that funding has been put aside to build one, but that is very much down the road. That is too long for people in urgent need of a cataract procedure.

“People are waiting between three and five years which is not good enough. 

"People require this procedure because they are in pain or in real danger of going blind

Fine Gael TD Colm Burke said that funding has been agreed for a new cataract theatre at the South Infirmary Hospital in Cork.

“That project will be starting soon. We will probably be commissioning it in the third quarter of the year, so we will be looking at July or August before it will be finished,” he said.

The South Infirmary Victoria Hospital, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
The South Infirmary Victoria Hospital, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Deputy Burke is also confident the waiting list for cataract procedures going forward will be reduced following the hiring of two ophthalmologists.

“The current waiting time for the South Infirmary is around 140 patients. 99 of those were waiting on average less than three months. The two extra ophthalmologists will ensure major progress will be made on the waiting lists. This is a huge step forward. They will be a great help with the backlog,” he explained.

Mr Collins initially started organising buses to Belfast for his constituents in 2017 as the waiting lists for cataract treatment were increasing. More than 7,000 patients have accessed the cross-border directive health care scheme service this year: “It wasn’t the best solution, but it was a solution. It has been a huge success. We have taken up 64 buses.”

Mr Collins has also voiced his concerns that the scheme which allows Cork patients to travel to Belfast for cataract surgery will not be continued with Brexit a contributing factor.

Responding to the concerns raised, Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard has reassured patients that the cross-border directive health care scheme will continue as normal going forward.

“Arrangements have been made to protect the movement of people North and South and to protect those who avail of health services both North and South. The cataract bus was included in this arrangement between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

“This arrangement will not affect the cataract buses travelling from Cork to Belfast,” Mr Lombard added.

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