Sunday 19 January 2020

Galway has most patients waiting more than a year for surgery

Galway University Hospital now has more than 3,600 patients on its list for surgery for more than a year
Galway University Hospital now has more than 3,600 patients on its list for surgery for more than a year
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Galway University Hospital now has more than 3,600 patients on its list for surgery for more than a year - the highest number of 'long waiters' in the country.

The queue of patients in the hospital - which has a catchment area with more than one million people - includes people who need orthopaedic and ear, nose and throat surgery.

It is twice the number of patients waiting for operations in the Mater Hospital in Dublin, which is next on the league table and has 1,657 facing delays of more than a year.

The Mater also has a catchment area of about one million people and is a national referral centre for several specialties. Other hospitals with high surgical waiting lists include St James's Hospital (1,240), Beaumont Hospital (1,234), University Hospital Waterford (1,161) and Tallaght Hospital (878).

Factors contributing to waiting lists vary but key pressures include lack of beds due to emergency overcrowding and a large older population in the area.

The figures come after the Budget pledge to direct another €50m to tackling waiting lists next year.

When surgical, outpatient and endoscopy waiting lists are combined, there are 535,000 public patients waiting. However, it is unclear how far the additional funding will stretch, given the pledge is to treat those waiting longest first.

These are the sickest and most complex patients, which will make the procedures more expensive. Around €20m would pay for only 1,500 orthopaedic operations for people needing hip or knee surgery.

However, the figures show that nationally 11,183 are waiting for orthopaedic surgery.

It means that despite the funding, the dent in waiting list numbers may be modest. The bulk of the money will go on surgery. But it must also be shared among those waiting to see a specialist and patients waiting for diagnostic endoscopy.

St James's Hospital has had to take one of its obsolete endoscopy machines out of use because it could cause a fatality. It has a waiting list of 1,313 for these procedures.

The Private Hospitals Association, which represents the private hospitals where some public patients will be outsourced, said they were ready to take on the work.

The organisation's chief executive, Simon Nugent, said yesterday that €20m of this funding would be administered by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) "which has a track record in procuring patient care efficiently".

He said: "Private hospitals across Ireland are ready and able to provide treatment to patients on public waiting lists."

He added: "We treat about 400,000 patients a year and perform at least 250,000 theatre procedures and have the capacity to see patients quickly, effectively and with high quality outcomes."

Mr Nugent said that when the National Treatment Fund was used to tackle waiting lists in the period prior to 2011, it proved very successful - treating up to 20,000 in-patients a year.

Irish Independent

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