'They told me I didn't ask the question right'

Dónal Nolan

A Kerry politician was told he had not correctly posed a question about the number of people waiting for cataract operations in the county on his initial bid to get the HSE to reveal the extent of the list.

Fianna Fáil County Councillor John Joe Culloty was informed by HSE management at the recent regional health forum meeting that 144 people are currently waiting for cataract procedures.

But when he queried the apparently low figure - against the background of inordinate backlogs for the procedure in the county - he was told he hadn't formulated his question in the correct manner.

A second question revealed the much larger figure of 528 patients waiting on the list.

Cllr Culloty expressed his frustration over the fact the full figure was not released to him immediately on an initial question he believes could not have been clearer. "I was very annoyed that I had to ask a second time to get the real figures, people have a right to know what's going on with cataract operation waiting lists with so many on it in the county," he told The Kerryman.

"I know one woman who is 92 years of age and on the waiting list now for 18 months. Reading is one of the biggest pleasures remaining to her and she's struggling as her eyes deteriorate while she waits for what is a fairly straight forward and relatively cheap procedure."

Cllr Culloty originally asked HSE bosses at the regional health forum: 'How many people are currently on the waiting list for cataract surgery in Kerry, and also to provide a detailed breakdown of waiting times.'

He was provided with figures for 'total public patients currently waiting for a cataract procedure, without a surgery date' - revealing a total of 144 patients.

However, his further efforts resulted in the HSE releasing the figures for Kerry people on the 'ophthalmology' waiting list as of March 23 last. It shows that 528 are waiting. 121 of these have an appointment date, with 407 still waiting for an appointment date in Kerry.

Of the entire list - both with a date and without a date - 17 have been waiting for up to three years; 38 for up to two years; 30 for up to 21 months; 42 up to 18 months; 38 are waiting up to 15 months, with 49 waiting up to a year, 99 waiting up to nine months; 106 waiting half a year and 109 waiting three months.