10,000 children wait more than a year for eye specialist
More than 10,000 children and teenagers who need to see an eye specialist are waiting longer than a year.
New figures reveal they are among 28,273 in the public community health service queue to see an opthalmologist.
The figures were revealed by Kerry Fianna Fáil TD John Brassil, who said: "One in three on the list is waiting over a year. It is simply unacceptable that the sight of so many young people should be put at risk with such long waiting times."
The delays come as pupils return to school, many of them with eye problems which need specialist assessment.
He added: "These are just the numbers waiting for a primary care appointment.
"The most recent hospital waiting time figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) show that some 37,402 are waiting for an outpatient appointment with an ophthalmologist, with 11,275 waiting over a year.
"More than 13,000 also need operations and some 3,600 of them are also waiting a year plus.
"A consultant ophthalmic surgeon at the Mater Hospital earlier this year called those NTPF waiting list figures a 'hidden scandal'.
"The fact that there is also another list in primary care, with a further 28,000 on it, compounds that scandal."
Specialists warn it is essential children be seen as soon as possible, not only to treat common conditions such as a 'lazy eye' that could affect their vision, but also for the early detection of rare conditions such as an eye tumour or childhood glaucoma.
Five people of all ages go blind in Ireland every week even though 75pc of all cases of blindness is preventable.
Conditions that can affect a child include blocked tear ducts or paediatric cataracts, which cloud the eye's lens and leave them with blurred vision.
Lazy eye happens when one eye's power diminishes because the eye and brain are not working together properly.
The eye may look normal, but the brain is favouring the 'good' eye. It may be permanent if untreated.