New waiting list figures add to woes for elderly on trolleys
New waiting-list figures show a rise in the number of people facing delays of more than 18 months to see a specialist.
There were 13,353 waiting for an outpatient appointment for more than a year and-a-half in October, up 177 from the previous month.
The news comes as the family of 93-year-old Essie Tiernan, from Naul in north Co Dublin, spoke of her ordeal as she endured 29 hours on a trolley.
Ms Tiernan was on the trolley in the emergency department of Beaumont Hospital overnight this week.
Her grand-niece, Michelle Cleary, said that while Ms Tiernan was given good care by staff, she was suffering the effects of pressure sores as the hours on a trolley took their toll.
It also emerged earlier this week that a 91-year-old man with Parkinson's Disease spent 29 hours on a trolley in Tallaght Hospital.
Last night, as the fallout from the trolley scandal continued, the Department of Health insisted the latest waiting list figures were broadly positive.
However, the number of people waiting over 18 months was described as "disappointing" by the department. The Government had promised that nobody would be waiting that long from June.
While there was a fall in the number waiting more than 18 months for an operation, there were still 2,161 in this predicament in October, a fall of just 83 compared to September.
A&E doctors have insisted the drive to reduce waiting lists has meant fewer beds for patients on trolleys who need to be transferred to a ward.
The department said the system of fining hospitals which were not meeting waiting-time targets would continue - and €8.47m worth of penalties have been imposed so far.
Meanwhile, Dr James Gray, the Tallaght Hospital consultant who highlighted the plight of the 91-year-old, has said he will not being going away, despite being subject to an internal review. He said he would remain a advocate for safer patient care.
Dr Gray's colleagues in emergency departments said they supported his actions and warned that the "unacceptable" delays were now the "norm."
The hospital should be thanking him, instead of setting up an investigation, they added.