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Thousands of Cork kids waiting more than a year for eye appointments

NEW figures show long waiting lists in Cork for children to see eye specialists, with almost 4,500 children and teenagers waiting a year or more for an appointment with an ophthalmologist.

Figures released by the HSE show there were 10,249 children and teenagers in Cork waiting for an ophthalmology appointment at the end of June.

The figures, released to Fianna Fail through a parliamentary question, show that one in four (4,467) of these patients were waiting longer than a year for treatment or an appointment.

Patients are referred to ophthalmology services for serious childhood illnesses, genetic disorders, inherited conditions, special needs patients, squints and ophthalmic diseases, as well as long-sightedness and short-sightedness.

The Community Ophthalmology Service in Cork accepts referrals for children only, while adults are referred instead to hospital.

According to the figures, 3,513 children and teenagers were waiting longer than a year to be seen in North Lee community healthcare organisation (CHO).

In West Cork, 897 children and teenagers under the age of 18 were waiting a year or longer for their appointments at the end of June, the figures also show.

In Cork North, 57 children and teenagers under the age of 18 were waiting a year or longer for their appointments at the end of June, the figures also show.

In a statement, Cork Kerry Community Healthcare said wait list figures prior to July of this year included both new and returning patients waiting to see a community ophthalmic physician or an orthoptist.

“Clarity was received from the national primary care division on the waitlist definition at the end of June and it has been confirmed that the wait list should include new patients only.” Due to this factor, the waiting list reduced to 2,030 patients at the end of July, the spokesperson added.

Cork Kerry Community Healthcare is also currently validating its waiting lists after it received this clarification, to verify the number of children and primary school students in the City waiting to be seen for the first time for longer than a year.

“We anticipate that this figure will reduce.” According to Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, there is currently one full-time community ophthalmic physician for Cork City and County as well as the work time equivalent (WTE) of one orthoptist as well as sessional staff.

The group said it is currently addressing wait lists with validation underway across Cork and Kerry.

Specific initiatives to reduce the waiting list include examining policies relating to those who did not or cannot attend as well as discharge policies.

The group is also examining the recently published Eye Care Review to decide on possible actions.