A total of 49,000 people are on the waiting list for eye care, with optometrists saying the delays are “unacceptable”.
he National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) figures up to August 2021 show that nearly 41,200 were on the waiting list for outpatient eye care.
Almost 19,000 waited more than a year and 14,800 more than 18 months. While nearly 7,800 people were waiting for eye interventions for hospital patients.
Now Optometry Ireland is using community optometry services to help reduce the wait list.
President John Weldon said: “The eye health of citizens is in jeopardy due to continued and unacceptable delays.
“Much of the resources needed to increase eye care capacity are already in place in optometry.
“There are 300 practices and 700 practitioners across the country who are highly skilled, have state-of-the-art equipment and have the capacity to provide more services.”
Mr Weldon added that as Covid-19 has created ‘additional pressures’ in the healthcare system,’ there is an opportunity to address this problem (waiting list) in eye care through increased reliance on optometrists “.
He added: “We encourage a greater role for optometrists to be further discussed by the Department of Health and the HSE.”
Mr Weldon said it was cheaper for people with “routine needs” to use optometrists in community optometrists rather than in hospitals.
“In Ireland optometrists are not hired and used as much as in other EU countries,” he added.
“With the approval of the HSE, optometrists can also make a larger prescription to help with the management of chronic eye disease in the community.
“The reform we are proposing makes sense at all levels. It can reduce wait times, is cost effective, makes services more accessible to patients, and makes better use of an existing resource.
Optometry Ireland has welcomed the optometrists’ decision to perform routine state exams and care for children aged 8 and over.
The program has been launched in a number of regions and the profession has called for a timeline and urgent roll-out to all regions.
Mr Weldon said nearly 40% of optometrists have also trained as COVID-19 vaccinators, or are in the process of completing the certification process and they may “play a bigger role. in public immunization programs ”.
“We envision a future where people can get vaccinated at their local certified optometrist, such as at a GP’s office or pharmacist.”
The Irish Independent has contacted the HSE for comment.