Teddy Walsh has a tumour in the corner of his left eye that continues to grow while he waits and waits, for years and years, for an outpatient appointment to see an eye surgeon.
A previous eye condition, going back two decades, was treated by laser every two years and Teddy reckons that over time, it burned away his tear duct.
“As a result it looks as if I am crying all the time,” he said.
About four years ago, Teddy’s consultant offered to remove the growth that required laser treatment. At the time, Teddy, from Cattle Market Avenue, off Shandon St, in Cork City, declined.
“Back then, it wasn’t of major concern to me. It wasn’t causing any pain and my eyesight was quite good,” he said.
He now regrets that decision. For the past three-and-a-half years, his GP Dr Nick Flynn, of Hollyhill Medical Centre, has written, on his behalf, to Cork University Hospital (CUH), seeking an outpatient appointment, to no avail.
“I first wrote in 2015,” said Dr Flynn, adding that Teddy “hasn’t had a service from the hospital since then”.
Teddy said the tumour, which is not cancerous, is becoming sore, is interfering with his vision, and causing headaches.
Psychologically, it’s affecting his self esteem.
“I’m embarrassed about going outside, it’s affecting my confidence, and I wear dark glasses all of the time,” he said.
He is concerned about going on holidays in case he falls victim to the HSE’s waiting list validation process.
As part of this process, hospitals have been writing to patients asking them to confirm that they still require an outpatient appointment.
Dr Flynn received several letters this week alone from hospitals in the South/South West group advising him that patients either have been removed or are about to be removed from waiting lists because they have not responded to the hospitals. The letters refer to patients awaiting appointments with ophthalmologists (eye specialists), pain relief, and dermatology.
Teddy, who does not have private health insurance, said he does not blame hospital staff for his situation, but that administration within the HSE is “chaotic”.
This man is waiting 3.5 years for ophthalmology out patients.
I have written 5 letters.
The tumour in his eye is getting bigger, interfering with his vision & now causing headaches.
If he goes on holidays he may be removed from the #waitinglist
Pic used with his permission pic.twitter.com/l37ZJWPOO4— Nick Flynn (@drnickgp) July 17, 2018
After Dr Flynn posted details of Teddy’s predicament on Twitter this week, he was contacted by Dublin-based eye surgeon Dara Kilmartin, who in turn put him in touch with eye surgeon Rizwana Khan, who works at the Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin. An appointment for Teddy has been arranged for August 7.
Dr Flynn described the HSE’s validation system as a “systematic corporate tactic to manipulate lists”.
Earlier this week, the National Association for General Practitioners called for reform of the validation process, describing it as “a cynical political ploy to manipulate waiting lists and make them appear smaller”.
Ophthalmology waiting lists nationally show more than 42,000 on the outpatient list, of whom more than 10,000 are waiting 18 months-plus.
At CUH, the outpatient list is 6,880, with 1,728 waiting 18 months plus.
Last year, information obtained by the Irish Examiner showed five ophthalmic surgeons had written to hospital management at CUH warning that patients were at risk of going blind because of appointment delays.
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