Vital eye equipment out of action for month at CUH

A vital piece of equipment used to diagnose and monitor glaucoma at the eye clinic in Cork University Hospital (CUH) has been out of action for the past month.

The breakdown of the visual fields analyser in the ophthalmic department has led to patient appointments being deferred.

A patient who contacted the Irish Examiner said it was the second time his appointment had been cancelled and he was now pursuing private treatment.

Glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerve and treatment slows down progression. If untreated, the patient can go blind. Figures for CUH’s ophthalmic department show 2,400 patients attending for review of glaucoma, generating 4,800 appointments per year. The figure does not include new patient referrals.

Repeated attempts to establish how many patients have had appointments deferred on foot of the equipment failure were unsuccessful. The query was originally submitted on February 28.

Last month, the Irish Examiner reported that all five of the hospital’s ophthalmic surgeons had written to management warning that eye patients attending CUH were at risk of losing vision “permanently and irreversibly” because of appointment delays.

National Treatment Purchase Fund figures for February show 6,120 patient awaiting outpatient appointments at CUH, including 2,120 waiting for more than a year.

CUH said in a statement that it is “monitoring the situation” and “discussing options to manage the lists”.

“These include the option of retaining the services of a community ophthalmologist in reviewing patients from the waiting list,” the hospital said.

The hospital said an application for funding for a replacement visual fields analyser was submitted and approved and that the paperwork in relation to purchase and delivery had been submitted. On March 2, they said the new equipment was due to arrive “in 7-10 working days”.

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