AOI Supports NOC

Sir, – Optometrists would like to respond to an article on the front page of The Irish Times ‘Only free eye clinic for children closes waiting list’ last Thursday, October 13.The article reported that the waiting list for the country’s only clinic offering free sight tests to younger children has closed due to ‘unprecedented demand’.Optometrists are not surprised and this problem is only going to get worse as our population increases.However, Optometrists have a simple and affordable solution.The State should sanction registered Optometrists, who work from approximately 300 locations across the country, to provide free children’s examinations.Optometrists are qualified, experienced and have the necessary equipment to provide all routine children’s eye examinations straight away.If sanctioned to do so – children’s waiting lists would be eliminated, in contrast to the list being closed at the National Optometry Centre and appointments taking up to four years in other parts of the country.Optometrists can also provide routine treatment for children, such as fitting of glasses or managing basic conditions. Together with a regional multi-disciplinary team many more significant eye conditions can also managed in the community.Only complex cases need be referred to specialist hospital based services which, unburdened of carrying out routine free eye examinations, would be able to treat complex cases quickly.There is an over reliance in Ireland on specialist Hospital based services to provide even the most basic level of eye-care, both for children and adults. This is a costly and unstainable model of care.We have costed that moving towards a primary care model of eye-care would save the State an estimated €20m per annum. It would also give people local and equal access to services across the country.Optometrists would like to advise parents concerned by lengthy waiting times, that their children can receive professional eye-care immediately at their Optometrist. Some costs may be covered publically, but only in a minority of cases.These problems are solvable and can be achieved at a net gain to taxpayers. Optometrists are keen to work with all health system partners to achieve this.

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