Carlow children waiting 14 months to be seen at HSE Eye Clinics for an examination

The issue was raised in the Seanad

Darren Hassett

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Darren Hassett

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news@carlowlive.ie

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Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor has said in Carlow/Kilkenny, children who are referred to HSE Eye Clinics have to wait 14 months before they have an eye examination, which could be carried out immediately by optometrists in the community.

Speaking in the Seanad, she said: "Good vision is essential for children to participate and benefit from education.

"The early years of visual development are key to ensuring that children do not have developmental problems that will restrict their ability to achieve their potential.

"Children’s eyesight develops from birth and as children grow so quickly, so can their eyesight change rapidly.

"While a small number of children do develop serious conditions that require medical intervention and supervision, the majority who develop issues with their sight can be managed with a regular eye examination and the prescribing of spectacles.

"However, early identification and management of children at risk of lazy eye and squint is compromised by the volume of children who simply need spectacles waiting on the current waiting lists for service.

"Added to this the HSE has made a decision to abolish the sixth class vision screening and has not yet put in place a national policy to replace this. This is all because of funding.

"Children over 8 should be seen in the community by optometrists. Implementation on a national basis of this policy would reduce this unnecessary delay.

"Cataract surgery is a life-changing procedure that can restore the sight of elderly people giving them back their independence and reducing the cost of preventable sight loss on the exchequer, families and carers.

She added: "Despite the merits of this operation people in my constituency who are referred to the Hospital Eye Service due to cataract wait on average 29 months between being referred due to reduced vision and having the surgery to restore sight.

"Where someone can afford to pay for private care they wait less than 3 months for the same operation.

"While use of the National Treatment Purchase Fund can reduce waiting lists in the short-term it does not address systematic inefficiencies.

"I am a new Senator, I was not here in the last Government or the one before it. I had no say in what spending was done but I have serious questions now.

"We have got to address issues like these if we are ever to tackle problems resulting from waiting too long. I think it is time for a debate on the matter, a debate on what we really are spending money on."