Written answers

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Thomas Gould (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
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338. To ask the Minister for Health the number of persons on the waiting list for ophthalmology in north central areas of County Cork; the average waiting time for an appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19479/20]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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Reducing waiting time for patients for hospital operations and procedures is a key priority for Government. In recent years, my Department has worked with the HSE and the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) and made considerable improvements to access for patients waiting for high volume procedures including cataracts. At the end of July 2017, the number of people waiting for a cataract procedure was 10,024. As of the end of June 2020, there were 6,023 patients waiting for a cataract procedure. Of these, 1,039 are waiting over 9 months which represents a reduction of 76% when compared to July 2017, when there were 4,249 waiting over 9 months.

A key development in improving access to Ophthalmology services was the opening of a stand-alone high-volume consultant-led cataract theatre by the University of Limerick Hospital Group in Nenagh Hospital in 2018, with the intention that it would facilitate patients from surrounding geographical areas to avail of their treatment there.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic the HSE had to take measures to pause most elective scheduled care activity with effect from the end March 2020. This was to ensure patient safety and that all appropriate resources were made available for Covid-19 related activity and time-critical essential work. This decision was in line with the advice issued by National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) and in accordance with World Health Organisation guidelines, and the National Action Plan.

NPHET has since revised its recommendation on the pausing of all non-urgent health services, with a recommendation that the delivery of acute care be determined by appropriate clinical and operational decision making. Application of the essential risk mitigating steps set out in the guidance developed under the auspices of the NPHET Expert Advisory group will have operational implications, which will impact on throughput.

To ensure services are re-introduced in a safe, clinically-aligned and prioritised way, the HSE launched its Strategic Framework for ‘Service Continuity in a Covid Environment’ on 24 June.  Its implementation will ensure service resumption is done in an integrated way. This will involve a phased approach to ensure community services are strengthened. The Framework will also consolidate new ways of working and build on international knowledge.  In addition, the HSE published 'A Safe Return to Health Services' last week, which is a Service Continuity Roadmap for the resumption of services across the health system.

Where possible, hospitals are working to find innovative ways to enable service provision, which include virtual clinics for some outpatient department appointments. The HSE website provides details on services currently available and operational in each hospital on its website. This information is reviewed frequently and provides up-to-date announcements on services available at each site ().

As the system continues to deliver Covid-19 and non-Covid 19 care side-by-side over a more prolonged period, my Department and the HSE will continue to work closely together to protect essential non-Covid 19 acute care and progress the provision of more routine non Covid-19 care.

The data requested by the Deputy concerning ophthalmology, is outlined in the attached document. The NTPF advised that Area of Residence coding cannot differentiate between North/South Cork. This information is instead presented by City/County instead.

Specialty Name Area Of Residence Amount Average Num Days
Ophthalmology Cork (City)
Ophthalmology Cork (County)

Thomas Gould (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
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339. To ask the Minister for Health the number of persons in north central areas of County Cork who are waiting for an appointment for early intervention by therapy; the number who are waiting less than six months, six months to 12 months and more than 12 months, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19480/20]

Photo of Mary ButlerMary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.


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