Confusion over waiting times for public hospital eye surgery

According to a front-page report in Fairfax Media’s Sydney Morning Herald on 3 June, it takes about two years to see a specialist ophthalmologist at, for example, Liverpool Hospital in Sydney’s south-western suburbs, followed by another two years on the waiting list for the actual surgery.
The report says a letter from Liverpool Hospital’s eye clinic to a Sydney patient obtained by Fairfax Media says due to the high dand for services “and the current resources available, the waiting period at the present time for a routine appointment is approximately two-and-a-half years.”
In the same article, Optometrists Association Australia’s NSW Division chief executive officer, Mr Andrew McKinnon, was quoted as saying some people are housebound for four years while waiting for eye surgery and that the wait for an appointment with an ophthalmologist is compounded by the further wait of one to two years for elective surgery. Futhermore, he states there is nowhere that he is currently aware of where cataract surgery is available in less than two years and that the difficulty is if cataract becomes significant then it is socially debilitating for people as they can’t read and can’t see and become socially isolated.
Mr McKinnon made similar claims in a short interview on Channel 7 the same day.
In the same Herald report on 3 June, a Liverpool optometrist, Mr Rusli Suwito was quoted as saying he had been unable to refer patients to the Liverpool Hospital eye clinic for at least four years.
A curious twist to the story is the differing versions of what happened in regard to the journalist who wrote the report attpting to contact The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists office.
The journalist told Insight she had attpted to obtain a comment from the college but no one was available, however she had left her contact details, but had never heard back.
However a spokesperson for the RANZCO said that the college, after being contacted by the journalist, had ailed her on 31 May advising that it could not comment on what was a matter for public hospitals and that it would be inappropriate for the college to comment.
But in the end, it was the New South Wales health minister, Ms Jillian Skinner, who set the record straight: in a report in the Herald on 4 June she was reported as saying the wait for public hospital eye surgery is just a median of 222 days wait – nothing like 700 days-plus.
So the question rains: why did the Sydney Morning Herald ask Optometrists Association Australia to comment on the issue and not the logical body, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists? After all, it is the latter organisation whose mbership carries out eye surgery throughout Australia.
The story could have waited for another day if it had not been possible to contact the college before going to press.
Perhaps it was because Fairfax media’s news publications are now sub-edited in New Zealand, where the differences between OAA and RANZCO may not be understood.

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