Saturday 19 January 2019

Hospital waiting lists reach record level

The increase comes despite an intensive validation process by the HSE.

Waiting room (Anthony Devlin/PA)
Waiting room (Anthony Devlin/PA)

By Aoife Moore, Press Association

National hospital waiting lists hit a record high in August, with more than 718,000 people waiting to be seen or treated by a doctor.

The increase comes despite an intensive validation process by the HSE, which was heavily criticised by GPs.

Figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund show August’s waiting list included 11,718 patients “suspended” from the overall list for a variety of reasons, including not being clinically fit for treatment.

Last month Health Minister Simon Harris blamed the suspensions on poor data, including letters being sent to old addresses, but critics have pointed out that people could have died during the period they were on a waiting list.

Simon Harris (Brian Lawless/PA)

More than 48,000 children were on waiting lists to be treated or seen by a doctor at the end of last month.

More than 16,000 have been waiting more than a year for an appointment.

Total inpatient and day case treatment lists are down, but the waiting list of people waiting to be seen by a consultant for the first time for assessment is up by nearly 3,000.

Outpatient waiting list numbers reached 514,585 last month, while 74,189 were waiting for inpatient or day case procedures.

Almost 20,000 patients were waiting more than 18 months to be seen.

More than 63,000 were waiting on an appointment with an orthopaedic consultant.

The statistics show Galway University Hospital has the biggest inpatient, day case and outpatient waiting lists in the country, with more than 50,000 patients waiting.

Galway University Hospital (PA)

Galway’s outpatient waiting list was 39,883 at the end of August and the inpatient and day case list was 10,181.

The NTPF figures are released across nine separate lists.

The figures comes amid reports that a major overspend at the Department of Health has dashed plans for tax cuts or increased spending in next month’s budget.

Last week, the INMO warned that the HSE had no plan to deal with expected hospital overcrowding in winter.

Irish Patients Association spokesman Stephen McMahon said tackling A&E overcrowding is one way to deal with the issue.

“If you can sort out the emergency department overcrowding, that means then that patients who have been waiting for the hip replacement or other treatments can actually get access on the day that it was planned,” said Mr McMahon.

Political opponents claimed waiting lists have rarely come down under the government.

Sinn Fein health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly said the figures are proof that the government’s plan is not working.

“There has hardly been a month since this government came to office where the total number of people on waiting lists has decreased,” she said.

“The situation is out of control and the minister for health and the government just continue to follow flawed and failed plans.

“We need to see sustained and intelligent investment in the public health system to tackle waiting lists.”

Fianna Fail health spokesman Stephen Donnelly said the figures show the government is failing to get to grips with the challenges facing the health system.

He said: “Today’s figures on waiting lists are a damning indictment of eight years of mismanagement of the health care system by the Fine Gael government.

“In spite of spending more money every year on health care, Fine Gael-led governments have managed to turn those waiting lists back from months into years.

“The current performance by Minister Harris is not good enough. It’s clear that this Government is bereft of ideas and competence on health care.”

Press Association

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