Fraser Coast patients wait for years for cataract surgery

HUNDREDS of patients on the Fraser Coast have been left waiting years for cataract surgeries because Queensland Health will not pay for an ophthalmologist at the Maryborough or Hervey Bay hospitals.

Instead, patients have been referred to a program that funds public patients to have surgery through the private system - at an estimated cost of $1.1 million.

But the program is designed to only treat patients who have waited longer than the clinically recommended time.

All 289 patients on the Fraser Coast public waiting list as of March this year will be treated through the Surgery Connect program.

A Wide Bay Hospital and Health Services representative said each patient had been contacted by a private provider and would have any required surgery done by the end of June.

The representative said at the time of being referred to Surgery Connect, patients had been waiting from one to more than three years for surgery.

A health department representative said there was no hospital across the Wide Bay that provided specialised ophthalmology services, in part due to recruiting challenges.

"The funding model for ophthalmology supports service delivery through hospital and health services, partnerships between hospital and health services, and arrangements with private providers," the representative said.

"This flexible approach reflects some of the complexities associated with the delivery of highly specialised services across Queensland, including workforce and recruitment challenges."

WBHHS chief operating officer south Phillipa Blakey said no work had been done to recruit an ophthalmologist for the Fraser Coast in the past year because ophthalmology was not one of the services Queensland Health funded the health service to deliver on the Fraser Coast.

The health department's representative said the majority of ophthalmology workers in Queensland Health were specialists with a private practice.

"The Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service is responsible for managing the very urgent cases like those that present with a penetrating eye injury," the representative said.

"The Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital are accepting referrals that have a category one or two clinical urgency.

"The remainder of the referrals are managed by a general practitioner and/or optometrist or a patient may seek private treatment."

It is at least the second year in a row Fraser Coast hospitals have had to rely on the Surgery Connect program.

Ophthalmology services:

  • Queensland will spend an estimated $1.1 million through the Surgery Connect program on ophthalmology surgeries for Fraser Coast residents this year
  • The 289 people on the Fraser Coast public waiting list as of March this year will receive their surgery through the private system
  • At the time of referral to Surgery Connect, patients had been waiting from one to three years for surgery


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