Warning that patients may go blind due to delays in eye care provision

Consultants’ concerns about impact of large waiting lists aired at conference

IHCA President Dr Donal O’Hanlon said: “Consultants are concerned that some patients will lose vision permanently and irreversibly as a result of the delays.” Photograph: Thinkstock

IHCA President Dr Donal O’Hanlon said: “Consultants are concerned that some patients will lose vision permanently and irreversibly as a result of the delays.” Photograph: Thinkstock

a
 

Patients in the south of the country may go blind as a result of delays in the provision of eye care, hospital consultants have warned.

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said at its annual conference in Galway on Saturday that the widespread and chronic shortage of hospital consultants, beds and other facilities in public hospitals was severely impacting patient care across the country.

IHCA President Dr Donal O’Hanlon said a combination of having one of the lowest numbers of specialist hospital consultants in Europe and over 500 unfilled posts was resulting in patients not being able to access timely medical care.

He said there were numerous examples across the country of where the lack of capacity and shortage of consultants was damaging patient care and having a catastrophic impact on our health service.

Dr O’Hanlon said in the eye surgery services in Cork around 6,000 patients were awaiting outpatient reviews.

“Consultants are concerned that some patients will lose vision permanently and irreversibly as a result of the delays”, he said.

He said over 6,500 children were waiting for MRI and Ultrasound scans in Crumlin and Temple Street hospitals in Dublin.

“In the Louth and Meath area around 2,400 outpatients are awaiting orthopaedic surgical appointments. Waits include around eight months for ‘urgent cases’ and 20 months for ‘routine’ cases.

“In Galway restrictions on the availability of bone density scans has led to a waiting list of around 6,000 patients. In addition, Galway University Hospital is suffering from one in three operating theatre rolling closures which is impacting adversely on the delivery of surgical care to patients. This is resulting in one of the worst elective surgical waiting lists in the country.”

Dr O’Hanlon said that in Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) there were over 3,600 people awaiting outpatient appointments and 340 awaiting inpatient and day-case appointments. He said two of the 15 permanent consultant obstetrician/gynaecologists in CUMH had emigrated to the UK in the past 18 months and a third was on a career break.

“Over 220 patients with significant brain injuries or stroke are waiting to be admitted to the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) for treatment. Some patients with brain injury and severe disability from stroke can wait more than a year from referral to the NRH to admission for formal rehabilitation in the hospital.”

Dr O’Hanlon said that in the Dublin Midland Hospital Group there were over 6,500 new patients waiting to see a consultant urologist. He said St James’ Hospital had advertised a consultant urologist post twice and had failed to recruit anyone.

Dr O’Hanlon told the conference: “Contrary to common perception, our public hospitals are poorly funded compared to other countries in Europe. We spend much less of our total health budget on acute hospitals than other countries.”

The IHCA president said there was “a distinct lack of urgency” in providing the extra beds and other hospital facilities that the Government has committed to delivering and for which it had allocated funding for in the National Development Plan published earlier this year. He said these beds and facilities are needed without delay.

“Patients are deteriorating on lengthy waiting lists and the State is putting in place sticking plaster solutions of outsourcing through NTPF [National Treatment Purchase Fund] or facilitating patients to travel abroad for operations that have for decades been provided in our public hospitals.

“There is clearly an urgent need for a multi-annual plan committing precisely when the 2,600 additional acute hospital beds will be put in place so that patients on trolleys and awaiting treatment can be provided an appropriate standard of care.”

a