Eye clinic treatment lists blow out

Eye clinic patients Steve Fawcett and Denise Wilson outside Dunedin Hospital yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Eye clinic patients Steve Fawcett and Denise Wilson outside Dunedin Hospital yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Patients of the eye clinic at Dunedin Hospital, who have been waiting more than a year for appointments, are being told to ''please be patient'', while they worry about their sight deteriorating.

Dunedin businesswoman Denise Wilson (66) was one of many people to contact the Otago Daily Times yesterday with her story of delay and concern following news there were serious issues concerning the Southern District Health Board's ophthalmology service.

She said was supposed to have a six-monthly checkup on her macular degeneration in April, but never received an appointment.

When she rang about it in August, she said she was told the clinic was running 13 months behind and to ''please be patient''.

With severe sight loss in one eye and the other deterioriated to the point she needed a magnifying glass to read, she was concerned that if that eye went, she would no longer be able to see.

''It's not a nice feeling. They are your eyes. You need them.''

The last time she was seen was in November last year.

Dunedin man Steve Fawcett, whose sight was affected by his diabetes, said he demanded an appointment when his six-monthly appointment card failed to materialise and his diabetes specialist said he really needed a checkup.

He got the appointment last month and went to the clinic, but after two hours waiting in the crowded waiting room, where there were no seats available, he gave up and left. He has another appointment in December, but is not hopeful things will be any better.

''I just haven't been able to see anyone; they're booking twice as many people as they can handle. It's just a joke.''

Waiting times at the eye clinic were nothing new, another patient said.

Gerald Sides (65), of Dunedin, who has had operations on both eyes to remove glaucoma and has been dealing with the eye clinic for about 20 years, said he had been seeing an ophthalmologist every three to four months for the past few years, but his ''last few'' appointment cards never arrived.

He had not been seen for about a year, although recently had successfully ''demanded'' an appointment.

The waiting room at the eye clinic had been as Mr Fawcett described, crowded and appointments running late, for as long as he could remember.

''They have been aware of the volume problems for a long time, but the authorities have just never done anything about it.''

Others reported similar stories yesterday.

Dunedin woman Deborah Whitty, whose eyesight needs to be monitored because of type 1 diabetes, told RNZ she finally secured an appointment for December after a year's delay.

Ms Whitty said she had not had any communication from the DHB and her appointment was made after her GP started chasing up the hospital about three weeks ago.

''If that hadn't happened, would I still be waiting until next year?''

debbie.porteous@odt.co.nz

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