Some public patients in West Cork are having to wait up to five years for cataract surgery, according to a new survey from the Association of Optometrists Ireland.
The research has found a large disparity in waiting times for the surgery across the country.
The average is now 29 months, an increase of a month on last year, with the longest wait in Co. Cork, particularly West Cork, at 60 months.
The shortest delay of 14 months was in Sligo and Leitrim, where an award-winning scheme is in place involving greater co-working between Optometrists and the hospital eye department.
The second annual AOI survey broke down responses per constituency and found in contrast the average wait for private cataract surgery, for those who can afford to pay, was just three months.
There has also been a 74% rise in the number of patients going to Northern Ireland for eye-care.
AOI CEO Seán McCave said it is time “we stopped tolerating these terrible delays and took action”, and added that there are 650 trained Optometrists working in 350 places across the country who could meet the clinical requirements.
Mr McCave said: “There are also many other areas of eye-care where Optometry can help such as red-eye management, glaucoma and AMD. Furthermore, prescribing rights should be brought into line with the UK which would take some of the pressure off of GPs.
“AOI has estimated that in excess of €30m could be saved while at the same time delivering an accessible and clinically effective service."
"That is because it is 50% less expensive to provide care in the community than in hospital, and eliminating waiting times would lead to earlier detection and treatment.
“In Scotland, Optometrists are utilised as the front line for public eye-care and they do not have waiting list problems. AOI is calling on the HSE, under the leadership of the Minister for Health Simon Harris, to reform Irish eye-care and better serve the interest of patients.”