Children in Galway West are waiting two years for an appointment to see a cataract specialist – nearly three times the wait for under-12s in the east of the county.
The situation for adults is even more frustrating. In Galway West the waiting time for public cataract surgery is 30 months – six months longer than in Galway East.
The survey of eye services carried out by optometrists found that Galway East eye patients are faring better than other parts of the country, with waiting times of two years for adults and nine months for children.
The wait for children in Galway West was one of the longest in the country.
The average waiting time for adults across the country was 29 months – but in West Cork it was an astonishing five years.
The shortest delay of 14 months was in the constituency of Sligo and Leitrim, where a scheme is in place involving greater co-working between optometrists and the hospital eye department.
Private patients were able to access cataract surgery within three months.
The second annual survey by the Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI) found that the average wait for public cataract surgery nationally increased by one month since last year.
There was a 74% increase in patients travelling to Northern Ireland to avail of the Cross Border Directive for Cataract Surgery over the past 12 months.
Over 60% of respondents said that their local HSE office or clinic did not have arrangements for them to provide an eye examination to children aged 8-12 if discharged from the HSE service. Just under a third did while 11% were not clear on local arrangements.
Galway East TD and Minister for Rural Affairs Seán Canney said the survey highlights systemic problems in waiting times for treatment.
“Cataracts are highly debilitating for older people but operations can be transformative in terms of quality of life.
“In Sligo, optometrists examined patients in the community at the same time as they were getting appointments for their glasses’ prescription. This not only makes the process more efficient but saves money.”
He urges those languishing on waiting list to apply to the National Treatment Purchase Fund for treatment.
AOI President Patricia Dunphy said the survey showed the urgent need for the Minister for Health to intervene and affect an overhaul of eye care services.