Public patients in West Cork waiting five years for cataract surgery forced to travel for procedure

Public patients forced to go to Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the EU for routine procedures are waiting months to be reimbursed by the HSE.

Public patients in West Cork waiting five years for cataract surgery forced to travel for procedure

Public patients forced to go to Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the EU for routine procedures are waiting months to be reimbursed by the HSE.

The lengthy backlog in treatment refunds emerged on the same day an optometrists' survey revealed that patients in West Cork are having to wait up to five years for cataract surgery.

Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath described the reimbursement delays as a “double insult” and called for the issue to be tackled.

The survey of eye services by the Association of Optometrists Ireland found that the longest wait time for public cataract surgery, at five years, is across Cork County, particularly West Cork.

The average wait time for cataract survey across the country is almost a year and a half and the shortest delay, at just over a year, is in Sligo and Leitrim.

Optometrists point out that there is an award-winning scheme in the Sligo-Leitrim constituency involving greater co-working between optometrists and the hospital's eye department.

Mr McGrath said he has learned that those opting to go to other EU countries for treatment under the EU Cross Border Directive are having to wait more than two months for refunds.

The reimbursement turnaround time has increased from 30 days to 70, and around 4,000 applications are still being processed.

Mr McGrath said it is bad enough that people have to travel to Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the EU for routine procedures such as cataracts and hip replacements: “But the fact that these patients are now seeing their reimbursement delayed by over two months is a double insult."

The cross border treatment scheme has increased in popularity in recent years as waiting lists in Ireland became unbearably long.

However, the time people are having to wait to be reimbursed after paying for their procedure has become a serious issue. "This is not only frustrating for them but also financially crippling," he said.

Mr McGrath urged Health Minister, Simon Harris, to raise the issue with the HSE as a matter of urgency and ensure the backlog of claims is cleared within a reasonable timeframe.

Since last year's survey by the Association of Optometrists Ireland, the average wait for public cataract surgery nationally has increased by one month.

Under 12s waited around 14 months for public eye-care, with waiting times ranging from over two years in Wexford to just three months in Tipperary.

AOI president, Patricia Dunphy, blamed an over-reliance on public eye clinics and hospital ophthalmology departments to provide even the most basic care.

The association's chief executive, Seán McCrave said there are 650 trained optometrists working in 350 locations across the country who could provide clinical care in the community.

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

New episodes available each Tuesday during December

Available on
www.irishexaminer.com/podcasts

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence