41,000 patients on waiting list as demand for eye care soars
More than 41,000 people are on a waiting list for eye care - an increase of almost 2,000 on the previous year.
Of these, some 16,200 have been waiting for outpatient care for more than a year, with 10,500 people waiting more than 18 months.
The Association of Optometrists (AOI) said that with an ageing population growing year on year, the country needed to plan appropriately.
AOI chief executive Sean McCrave said extra theatre space at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear and Nenagh Hospital were welcome but would not address the demand and delays.
"Optometrists are recommending radical reform of eye care to move towards a triaged approach of routine public care provided by optometrists in the community and specialised care by ophthalmologists in hospitals," he said.
"In Ireland we have an unusual over-reliance on hospital ophthalmology departments.
"This is a flawed approach that cannot and will not meet patient demand."
AOI president Patricia Dunphy said cataract surgery accounts for a significant proportion of the backlog and called for better organisation in this section.
She said optometrists should be given prescribing rights for antibiotic and steroid drops, which they are already qualified to do.