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Dublin: 18°C Tuesday 15 June 2021

'It's Belfast or go blind': Bus of elderly head on eight-hour journey up North for cataract surgery

There are currently more than 8,500 people on the cataract waiting list in Ireland.

File photo
File photo
Image: Romaset via Shutterstock

THIRTEEN PEOPLE REQUIRING cataract surgery travelled from Cork and Kerry to Belfast over the weekend where they had their operations carried out under the cross-border directive.

The elderly group, aged in their 70s and 80s, travelled eight hours to Kingsbridge Hospital in Belfast for their surgeries.

There are currently more than 8,500 people in the Republic of Ireland on the cataract waiting list.

Some people have been told they will have to wait up to two years for their first consultation, while others have been facing a waiting list of up to four years for an operation.

Independent TD Michael Collins was one of the politicians who organised the journey to Belfast.

“We’ve taken action by bringing a bus to Belfast for a simple procedure for a cataract operation that could have taken place here in Bantry Hospital. Really it’s a case of Belfast or go blind,” Collins said.

Gerry Higgins was the first person who took the journey up to Belfast to have the surgery done.

He said: “Mainly, and above all, is that I can drive, the car is very handy, mainly for doing meals on wheels, I love meals on wheels. This eye operation is absolutely heaven.”

Another patient Patrick Casey said that life after the surgery will be “a new world”.

“It went so easy and quick, as such, that this could have been done six, seven years ago in the south, only there’s a waiting list,” Casey said.

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Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, the HSE’s professor Billy Power said there is a need for an increase in cataract theatres in Ireland.

He called for specialist theatres that deal only with patients with cataracts in an efficient manner. He said one of these is in operation in Dublin’s Eye and Ear Hospital, but there’s a need for others.

“If we don’t do things differently, we’re facing a tsunami in terms of the numbers of people who are waiting and who will be waiting for cataract surgery,” Power said.

Read: Taoiseach says ministers will be allowed a free vote on Eighth Amendment

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