Man with tumour in eye is three years on waiting list to see specialist
A man with a growing tumour in his eye has been waiting three-and-a-half years to see a specialist, highlighting the worrying long delays endured by hundreds of thousands of public patients.
The man, who is on the outpatient list to see an ophthalmologist in Cork University Hospital, is now having problems with his vision and suffering headaches.
His case was brought to light by his worried doctor, Dr Nick Flynn, a GP in Union Quay, Cork city, who revealed he wrote his fifth letter to the hospital to secure an appointment for the patient this week.
The man is among an alarming 511,000 people nationwide on an outpatient list to see a specialist.
Thousands of these patients are now getting notices from their hospital asking them to confirm if they want to remain waiting.
However, GPs warn the patients are being given very short notice to respond.
Many who are in a vulnerable situation, or are going away on holiday, are put at risk of being struck off the list.
If the hospital does not hear from the patient, they are in danger of removal and going back to the start of the queue - which can last for years.
"This is an unassuming man who comes to see me every three or four months to see if there is anything doing with the appointment," Dr Flynn said.
He believes the tumour is benign, but stressed he cannot say for sure.
He added: "I returned from holidays this week and five of my patients were removed from waiting lists.
"Hospitals are entitled to validate their list but the process is very weighted against the patient.
"You could have a patient with poor literacy skills or a person who is a foreign national. They may even be in hospital or on holidays .
"I believe the hospital should not remove any patient from a list until they get a positive confirmation from the patient that they want to be removed."
He said health officials want to cull the lists so that in autumn they can announce a reduction. "There is the potential for something serious to happen if there is a delayed diagnosis," he said.
A hospital spokeswoman said: "The current longest wait time for new patient routine ophthalmology appointments at Cork University Hospital is 24-36 months. As this is an extremely busy service, patients are issued an appointment based on clinician triage of the patient referral letter by the relevant consultant."
Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail, president of the National Association of General Practitioners, said some surgeries are now getting 100 letters a week telling them their patients have been removed from lists.