More than 5000 at risk of going blind
A backlog of more than 5000 patients deemed ‘‘at risk’’ of going blind were waiting for specialist treatment in public hospitals in February this year, the Ministry of Health says.
The information has been released following a damning Health and Disability Commission report on the case of Gore farmer Koby Brown, who lost sight in one eye after waiting a year to see a specialist.
Ministry of Health chief medical officer Dr Andrew Simpson said district health boards had reduced the number of patients in the ‘‘at risk’’ category from 10,223 in May 2017 to 5028 by the end of February 2018.
‘‘District health board activity to support improved eye health and backlog reduction continues and is being reported monthly to the ministry,’’ Simpson said.
Brown said he was ‘‘pretty angry’’ when a doctor told him he was blind in one eye after his appointment happened six months late. ‘‘I wasn’t happy, I can assure you of that.’’
Brown was 20 years old when he was diagnosed with glaucoma by an ophthal- mologist on September 16, 2014, and told he would need to be seen again six months later.
After three phone calls and suffering pain ‘‘like getting poked in the eye by a needle’’, Brown was finally given a follow-up appointment on September 9 the following year. But by then it was too late. The ophthalmologist was in tears as he broke the news, Brown said.
‘‘I think he found it pretty bad as well ... it wasn’t him that stuffed up, it was the system and he was the one that had to deal with it.’’
The commission found that Brown did not get a timely appointment as the Southern DHB did not prioritise them based on clinical needs.
Concerns about the lack of capacity at the DHB’s ophthalmology service were not acted on, even after an earlier serious event review.
Mataura farmer Kobe Brown lost the vision in his right eye in September 2015 after waiting a year for a follow-up appointment.