Blowout in Cataract surgery waiting lists is the tip of the iceberg for failing NSW hospitals


17th May 2022
A new study published by Sax Institute journal Public Health Research & Practice has highlighted the chronic underfunding of public eye care in Australia, and the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists (ASO) says governments can no longer bury the issue under the guise of pandemic-related pressure on our health system.

A new study published by Sax Institute journal Public Health Research & Practice has highlighted the chronic underfunding of public eye care in Australia, and the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists (ASO) says governments can no longer bury the issue under the guise of pandemic-related pressure on our health system.

“Cataract surgery in the public system is in crisis—and this predates COVID-19—but it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Associate Professor Ashish Agar, President of the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists said.

“There is chronic underfunding of public eyecare in general. Waiting times for diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration treatments are even worse than waits for cataract surgery. Cataracts get attention because they are a KPI, but the other eye conditions are the hidden bulk of the iceberg.” he said.

Citing cataract surgery waits in NSW of up to two-and-a-half years, the study outlines the flow on effects for Australians left languishing on waiting lists; namely thousands of preventable falls and fractures.

Associate Professor Agar says the findings support what ophthalmologists have been telling the state Health Departments for years.

ASO Vice President and Sydney cataract surgeon Dr Peter Sumich said, “We have already seen the closure of St Vincent’s and St George Hospital eye surgery and a chronic underfunding of public eye clinics which require specialist expertise. The lack of commitment to public hospital ophthalmology is a long and vexed story and limits our ability to train new eye specialists.”

Dr Sumich says the ASO is hopeful the study’s release this week will bring the broader issue of public eye care to the forefront.

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