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'I don't want to jump queues': Thousands waiting up to 4 years for cataract surgery

The eye condition causes a person’s vision to become impaired, and is the leading cause of blindness in the world.

MARY COMBER WAS told that she’d have to wait two years before she’d get cataract surgery at a public hospital.

A cataract is the clouding of the eye’s lens that slowly leads to impaired vision, and sometimes blindness. It’s the most common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 40 and the main cause of blindness in the world.

Mary has the condition in both her eyes, and the idea of waiting two years for the surgery she needs, while her vision gets worse is having a serious impact on her.

“It’s affecting me in lots of different ways,” she told RTÉ’s Prime Time Investigates, which aired last night. ”I don’t want to start crying now, but it is.”

Mary says she feels increasingly vulnerable with her impaired vision, particularly at night, and worries about what would happen if someone were to break into her home.

I don’t mean to be a nuisance. I don’t mean to be anything and I don’t want to take anybody’s place. I don’t want to jump queues. I just want it done.

In order to afford a private surgery, Mary ended up selling her jewellery to save money for surgery on one eye. She paid over €1,800 to go private, and had the surgery done after just two months on a waiting list. She’s now on a public hospital waiting list to get the other eye done.

Mary’s case was brought up in last night’s Prime Time episode to highlight the decisions patients face in order to get surgeries done quickly.

There are 8,500 people currently awaiting cataract surgery, and waiting lists in some parts of the country take up to four years.

Fianna Fáil health spokesperson Billy Kelleher said that he was “disturbed” following the programme, and said that it was a nationwide issue.

“In my own county and city of Cork for example, excessively long waiting lists for cataract surgery have been raised by me and my fellow Fianna Fáil colleagues for some time.

The citizens who fund our public health system should not be leapfrogged by those who are simply able to afford additional private insurance.

Prime Time reported last night that in the two years between 2015 and 2016, over 43,500 public patients on waiting lists lost out to private patients.

Meanwhile, the Association of Optometrists Ireland said that a scheme used in Sligo, where appointments are co-managed by optometrists and hospital ophthalmologists, could “save 20,000 hospital appointments and reduce waiting times”.

You can watch RTÉ’s ‘Prime Time: Public V Private – The Battle for Care‘ here on the RTÉ Player.

 Read: Leo Varadkar suggests consultants should ‘clock in’ to ensure they’re at work

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