Surgery waiting lists soar as A&Es come under pressure
THE number of public patients waiting for over a year to be admitted to hospital for surgery has risen dramatically this year – up from just 36 in December to 931 at the end of May.
And there are now 48,279 on waiting lists for inpatient or daycare – the highest in more than a year and significantly up on the 41,732 in the queue last September.
The Department of Health's Special Delivery Unit, which has a number of highly paid outside advisers, was credited with reducing delays last year.
But the first half of 2013 has seen hospitals under huge pressure again.
The hospitals that have the longest lists are St James's, University Hospital Galway, the Mater and Beaumont. Nearly one in three patients on the lists is waiting to be admitted to these hospitals.
For 2013, the maximum waiting time targets are less than eight months for adults, less than 20 weeks for children, and less than 13 weeks for routine endoscopy.
A total of 2,889 (80pc of total) children are waiting less than 20 weeks while 716 children are waiting longer than 20 weeks.
Health Minister James Reilly admitted that following the significant progress made by the end of 2012 in reducing waiting times, the number waiting longer than the maximum waiting time has increased.
"This reflects the impact on waiting times of the severe pressures on emergency departments in the early months of this year," he said.
A range of measures are under way to try to reduce the queues, he said.
These involve working closely with hospitals to analyse performance, to agree action plans and provide extra support as necessary and to ensure hospital capacity is being optimised.
An estimated €18m was allocated to the five worst hospitals last month as part of an all-out effort to bring down waiting times. However, this kind of funding blitz approach has been criticised in the past and it shows that many underlying issues and inefficiences, which were being tackled, continue to persist and contribute to waiting lists.
"It is expected that the effect of these measures will begin to be seen in the mid-year figures," Dr Reilly added.