Monday 5 December 2016

Cancellation of surgery in bid to ease trolley crisis leads to sharp rise in waiting lists

Published 06/02/2016 | 02:30

'There were 2,115 people waiting for an operation beyond the Government’s self-imposed time limit of 15 months in January, compared to 1,205 at the end of 2015'. Stock photo
'There were 2,115 people waiting for an operation beyond the Government’s self-imposed time limit of 15 months in January, compared to 1,205 at the end of 2015'. Stock photo

The widespread cancellation of surgery for public patients in order to free up beds in a bid to ease the trolley crisis has led to a sharp rise in waiting lists, new figures reveal.

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There were 2,115 people waiting for an operation beyond the Government's self-imposed time limit of 15 months in January, compared to 1,205 at the end of 2015.

And of these, the numbers languishing on lists for longer than 18 months also rose - up from 459 to 847, the figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund revealed.

The promise was that nobody would be waiting on a public list for more than 15 months at the end of 2015.

The upward trend is another setback for patients who may be in pain and enduring a poor quality of life as they wait for the surgery.

And there was also bad news for public patients who need to see a specialist.

The numbers on outpatient waiting lists rose by around 40pc with 13,763 now facing delays of more than 15 months.

This compares to 9,887 who were waiting this length of time in December.

The figures reveal the knock-on effects of hospital overcrowding and the desperate need for beds which has led to thousands of operations and other treatments being rescheduled.

The ongoing struggle comes despite the significant investment in trying to clear waiting lists, including outsourcing many public patients to private hospitals for care.

Meanwhile, there was better news for patients needing a vital organ transplant. Some 26 organ transplants were carried out in January compared to 14 in the same month a year ago.

Beaumont Hospital in Dublin also carried out four living kidney donations. There were none in 2015.

It is understood that St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin is also set to go live with the long-awaited resumption of pancreatic transplants any time when a donor becomes available.

When it comes to regular waiting lists University Hospital Galway, which has suffered some of the worst emergency overcrowding has 627 facing the longest delays.

And Beaumont Hospital in Dublin which also has had relentless trolley gridlock has 455 patients waiting past fifteen months.

The Department of Health said it recognises that there are "personnel and structural" challenges which impact on individual specialties and hospital sites.

It is vital there that hospitals manage waiting lists so that those waiting longest are scheduled for treatment, once emergency and urgent cases have been dealt with.

Waiting lists have dogged several governments in the past and the various election manifestos will inevitably promise to tackle them.

However, underlying problems including the lack of beds, as well as a shortage of nurses remain a key problems to overcome.

Irish Independent

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