The Eurobodalla’s only public eye surgeon says he could remove cataracts from three extra patients a day, but NSW Health budget restrictions introduced under the previous Labor Government prevent him.
The NSW Opposition this week released data showing Batemans Bay Hospital had the state’s worst elective surgery waiting list, with eye surgery the primary cause of the backlog.
Of 641 people on the list in March this year, 590 were waiting for cataract removal and intraocular lens transplant.
Those eye patients had an estimated wait of 10.7 months.
Dr Philip Larkin yesterday said he could immediately increase his list by 25 per cent if NSW Health would allow him, but lashed out at the Opposition for “hypocrisy”.
“I can increase the number of procedures I perform at this hospital if the funding increases,” he said in between procedures yesterday.
“The guidelines for cataract surgery were determined by the previous Labor Government. They are hypocritical. The funding for ophthalmology in this area was reduced in the last five years of the Labor Government and the waiting list in this area increased three-fold.
“It went from six months to 12 months and they made the second eye unable to be booked at the same time as the first.
“Under the current Liberal Government the waiting list has dropped a little, from 12 months down to 10.
“I believe we have a shorter wait for cataract surgery than most of the state. I talk to my colleagues; they are all at 12 months, that is my personal understanding.
“I am only allowed to perform 550 cataracts a year. If you have a second ophthalmologist appointed to this hospital, we will both be doing 275 cataracts a year.
“I will increase my workload if the funding is increased. It would take no strain to increase it by 25 per cent. I currently do 12 cataracts per list and we have the capacity on a list to do 15.”
He said the NSW Government had temporarily allowed him to do more patients each day “towards the end of last year”, but “because it is a new financial year we have dropped down to 12”.
“I am trying to negotiate increasing the number. Even if we get to 13 or 14, that will be better than 12.
“I achieved my target at the end of the last financial year and they are now saying well, we think 12 per list is enough to achieve this year’s target, albeit that I believe this year’s target is identical.”
Dr Larkin said the funding model applied across NSW.
“This is a state-wide thing, where the previous Labor Government decided you could wait 12 months for cataract surgery.
“I don’t agree with that, I don’t understand the justifications. It seems to me it is purely funding, but the current government does appear to be trying to reduce that waiting list."