The Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI) says the numbers are at “crisis level” and the delays are compromising health.
More than 3,000 of those waiting for procedures have been waiting more than a year, with 800 waiting more than 18 months. The waiting list for outpatients, meanwhile, has grown 20% in the last eight months.
The association is calling for a radical overhaul in the way specialist eye care is provided and says its 600 members should be allowed take on more cases in the community, leaving hospitals free to look after only the most complex cases.
AOI chief executive Sean McCrave said: “Hospital eye departments cannot and will not meet patient ever-growing demand. In the UK and across Europe there has been an increasing move towards community based eye-care – and that is where Ireland too needs to go.”
Optometrists they could treat patients cheaper than hospitals, saving the state €32.2m — €19.3m on the treatment of glaucoma, €7.2m on children’s eye-care €7.2m, €3.9m on triage, and €1.9m on red eye. They also say that hospital and clinic appointments incur extra costs through high levels of non-attendances and impose additional costs on patients through travel and parking.
Mr McCrave said there were three areas where optometrists could immediately reduce waiting times — the paediatric list, the cataract list, and the review of stable patients post-treatment, particularly those with glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.
“It’s frustrating to continuously hear about the huge numbers on the waiting list, and the risks to patients this brings, while optometrists are in a position to immediately make significant inroads into solving the problem,” he said.