Hospitals failed to meet end-of-year waiting list targets
Hospitals have failed to meet the target of having no public patient waiting longer than 15 months for surgery or an outpatient appointment by the end of 2015.
New waiting list figures show 9,887 were facing delays of more than 15 months to see a specialist, and another 746 were in queues for the same lengthy time at the end of December.
The backlog comes as talks begin at the Workplace Relations Commission to try to avert the nurses' strike in seven of the country's hospital emergency departments next Thursday.
Many hospitals continued to endure serious levels of overcrowding yesterday and the numbers of patients on trolleys waiting for a bed only fell marginally to 423.
Today's talks between the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and the HSE are expected to be tense as nurses demand concrete guarantees that measures to alleviate the trolley crisis will be implemented. A spokesman for Health Minister Leo Varadkar said yesterday that he hoped there was a resolution in the interests of patients.
Some of the measures demanded by nurses to free up beds, however, involve increased cancellation of admissions by waiting list patients needing surgery.
This will drive up treatment delays in the coming weeks and months.
The end-of-year waiting list figures show 459 of those needing surgery are in the queue for more than 18 months.
And 5,262 are waiting more than 18 months to see a specialist.
Many patients have been outsourced for private appointments to try to make inroads into delays for the longest waiters.
Commenting on the figures, a spokesman for the Department of Health insisted the overall trend was positive.
He said: "It should be noted that a number of patients who had not yet had appointments have been scheduled for treatments or appointments in the coming weeks."
At the end of December no child who was suitable for spinal surgery to treat scoliosis was waiting more than 15 months in Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin.
Some 39 children in need of spinal surgery on the Crumlin waiting list had now been transferred to either the Blackrock Clinic or the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital at Stanmore in the UK for treatment in the coming weeks, said the spokesman.
The department said that the overall numbers of patients on outpatient waiting lists had fallen to 375,000 at the end of December. This was at its lowest level in 2015 and amounts to a reduction of more than 10,000 on previous months.
Hospitals which have been worst hit by the trolley crisis also have the highest numbers of patients waiting the longest for surgery.
Some 179 are waiting longer than 15 months for an operation in Beaumont Hospital and 34 of these need neurosurgery.
Some 37 patients were on trolleys in Beaumont's emergency department yesterday morning and another seven in wards.
In Galway University Hospital, there are 421 patients on waiting lists for surgery for more than a year. The highest numbers are waiting for hip and knee surgery.
Temple St children's hospital in Dublin has 67 children waiting more than nine months for surgery after cancellations last month due to the rotavirus.