herald

Friday 17 August 2018

Children could go blind due to cutbacks - doctor

A LEADING eye doctor has warned that some children could lose their eyesight when one of the country's main hospitals begins postponing operations to cut costs.

Temple Street Children's Hospital has had its annual budget slashed from €86.3m to €73m, and will be rescheduling clinics and non-emergency surgeries for 18 days of the year, around the downtime associated with Christmas, Easter, the August bank holiday and the new year.

According to a hospital spokesperson, Temple Street will still operate a full emergency service and children who require urgent surgery will be cared for during the working days earmarked for curtailment of full hospital activity.

But consultant ophthalmologist Dr Michael O'Keefe has warned that children's lives may be put in danger by postponing crucial treatments, and children with severe eye conditions will have their appointments postponed and delayed.

And he said that the lack of treatment could result in some children even losing their eyesight.

"I will have to postpone about 200 appointments a week. These children could have tumours, cataracts or glaucoma," he said.

"This will have a knock-on effect on waiting lists. If I cancel a child who should be seen this week, there is another patient in a similar situation who is on the list for the following week.

"It will just mean misery and suffering for patients and families."



proactive

Dr O'Keefe explained that he sees 12,000 children a year in his clinic and receives 50 requests for appointments every week.

Mona Baker, acting chief executive of the hospital, defended the plan, describing the new initiative as a "proactive approach" to improving the hospital's services, and insisted that measures will be put in place to keep the number of children affected to a minimum.

"I would like to reassure patients and families that all urgent cases will be dealt with and admissions will proceed for urgent elective patients during this period," she added.

Most hospitals nationwide have suffered severe budget cuts this year, which will result in bed and theatre closures.

cmcbride@herald.ie

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