A thousand more patients face long waits for surgery
The number of public patients facing long delays for surgery jumped by nearly 1,000 last month as hospitals around the country cancelled operations due to the trolley crisis.
New waiting list figures show there were 3,079 patients on waiting lists at the end of February for surgery beyond the 15-month time limit set by the outgoing government.
This compares to 2,115 waiting more than 15 months in January, when the backlog of patients began to build up.
The backlog came as hospitals ringfenced beds for people who needed to be transferred to wards from emergency departments.
The figures, compiled by the National Treatment Purchase Fund, show that 1,105 of these patients were waiting more than 18 months at the end of February, up from 847 the previous month.
The queues are also likely to grow this month as hospitals continue to prioritise emergency patients who have to be admitted to a ward.
The hospitals with the highest number of patients waiting over 15 months are Beaumont Hospital in Dublin and Galway University Hospital - both of which are under pressure from emergency overcrowding.
The report also shows a rise in the numbers of patients waiting more than 15 months to see a specialist.
There are now 17,693 on outpatient waiting lists for more than 15 months.
This compares to 13,763 at the end of January.
The biggest numbers are facing the longest wait to see specialists in orthopaedics and ear, nose and throat specialists.
Around 1,777 who are waiting between 15-18 months for an appointment are due to be seen in the next six weeks.
Fianna Fáil spokesperson on health Billy Kelleher said he was alarmed at the new high.
He said: "71,559 patients are currently waiting for in-patient or day care surgery, a 32pc increase under Minister for Health Leo Varadkar's tenure.
"The deterioration of our health service has continued under Minister Varadkar's watch," he added.
"The waiting time targets set out by the minister continue to be missed.
"The 18-month target for both outpatient and in-patient appointments, which was to be achieved by the end of June 2015, has still not been met.
"The number of patients stuck on outpatient lists also jumped by some 15,000. It's now over 390,000 and may soon breach 400,000."