EFFORTS are under way to tackle lengthy ophthalmology waiting lists ahead of the completion of two new Cork theatres later this year.
A dedicated cataract surgery theatre is currently being developed at the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital (SIVUH) to combat waiting lists.
The new theatre is part of a project — comprising two adjacent opthalmology operating theatres — which it is hoped can save millions of euro on outsourcing treatment.
One of the theatres will specialise in complex ophthalmic cases, while the second is set to function as a dedicated cataract theatre.
SIVUH operations officer Jean O’Sullivan said they expected to have the project completed by the third quarter of this year. However, she revealed that efforts were already under way to streamline services for ophthalmology patients.
These included the appointment of two community ophthalmologists, who will initially be located in St Mary’s Health Campus in Gurranabraher.
“Having these rooms means there will be certain treatments that can be carried out that would normally have been done in a theatre setting,” Ms O’Sullivan said.
“This ties in nicely with the community, which SIVUH are not very aligned to just yet. The ball is finally rolling in relation to this and we have appointed two community ophthalmologists.
“They will initially be working in St Mary’s Health Campus reviewing the outpatients. This is because the outpatient waiting list needs to be addressed.
“The hope is that they will develop a premises in that location for ophthalmologists to do intravitreal injections — a procedure in which medicine is injected into the eye to treat certain eye problems and protect the vision. The SIVUH currently carries out 16 of these injections a day.
“Intravitreal injections had always been done in a theatre setting, whereas now they can be done in a different location. There are so many new ways of working that are making improvements to patient flow.”
Ms O’Sullivan said the ophthalmology service has come a long way in recent years.
“We have undergone a lot of changes since 2010 as a result of the reconfiguration of the hospital services Cork and Kerry roadmap.
“Opthalmology will be a huge project for us this year,” she said.
“In the roadmap that was introduced, we were to be identified as a centre for ophthalmology. All we had before 2014 was one ophthalmology session a week as part of an outreach OPD [outpatient department].
“In order for us to be that centre, outpatients would have to move from CUH [Cork University Hospital] and the Mercy to us. Elective surgery would have to be transferred from CUH to us and elective surgery from the Mercy. This has been ongoing since 2014.”
She described the actions being taken to create a centralised ophthalmology service.
“There are five consultants, who in 2019 did 4,700 surgeries. What’s in the pipeline now is the transfer of patients from the eye casualty. We are hoping that this can be completed in quarter three of 2021.
“The elective and emergency surgery was transferred over from Cork University Hospital. There were 10 beds to support that service. The Mercy element hasn’t transferred yet, but that will come as a development we are doing for a second theatre.”
Ms O’Sullivan hopes the new service can offer hope to those still on waiting lists.
“The South/Southwest Hospital Group and the board of directors here have been campaigning for this for many years. For years we learned that we had funding for one theatre, but recently we learned that we have funding for a second, which is going to make a huge difference for patients.
“Opthalmology has been under terrible pressure over the years in relation to waiting lists. This second theatre should rectify this and we are going to look at new ways of working, including having clinical nurse specialists in the field to avoid the volume of NTPF [National Treatment Purchase Fund] sourcing that we have to do.”