The average wait for cataract surgery across the country is 28 months and up to five years in some parts of the country.
That's according to a survey carried out by the Association of Optometrists and reported by RTÉ.
The nationwide survey found that the longest wait for public cataract surgery was 60 months in West Cork.The shortest delay was 15 months in Sligo and Leitrim due to a scheme involving greater co-working between Optometrists and the regional Hospital eye department.
In contrast, the study found that the average wait for private cataract surgery across the country was three months.
It also found inconsistency and major gaps in children's public eye-care services with an average waiting time of 15 months.
The Association of Optometrists said the survey shows an urgent need for and an overhaul of eye-care services.
President of the Association of Optometrists Triona Culliton said the problem in Ireland was an over-reliance on HSE Eye Clinics and Hospital Ophthalmology departments to provide almost all public care.“The findings from the AOI survey are very clear: With regard to cataract surgery, the Sligo Leitrim constituency has the shortest waiting time and is the core region where the award-winning Sligo Cataract Scheme is in operation.
"AOI has estimated that rolling out the scheme nationwide could save up to 20,000 hospital appointments per annum and reduce system costs.
“AOI is calling on Minister Harris to sanction the HSE to roll out this scheme nationwide immediately.”
The survey also asked AOI members if they would be willing to contribute towards relieving pressure on overburdened hospitals and clinics.
97% said they were immediately available to deliver the Sligo Cataract Scheme and 87% said that they would support the non-medical and non-surgical elements of a national children’s eye-care programme.
“It is time that we stopped tolerating these terrible delays and take action”, Ms. Culliton said.
AOI stressed that it has 650 trained Optometrists working in 350 locations across the country who could meet all clinical requirements necessary and most already have the necessary equipment in situ. They can also offer local access for patients in all cities, towns and many villages across the country.
AOI said it is 50% cheaper for a patient to be seen in their community than at a HSE Clinic or Hospital and has estimated that annual savings of €32.3m can be made through reform.
In a statement, the Department of Health said the Government is committed to driving down waiting lists for cataract surgery. It said that over the past year the number of people waiting for cataract surgery has reduced by over 2,000.
The Department added that as part of its Waiting List Action Plan, the National Treatment Purchase Fund will provide 5,000 cataract procedures to patients this year.