Hospital beds lie idle as 684,000 are left to suffer on waiting list
More than 50 beds in hospitals across the country are lying idle due to staff shortages as the number of public patients on waiting lists soars to 684,800.
The lack of beds, combined with a trolley crisis, delivered more grim news for many patients who are suffering debilitating delays for surgery, an outpatient appointment or a diagnostic procedure.
Despite the injection of an extra €20m in funding to tackle treatment delays this year, another 6,000 were added to the various queues last month compared to September.
The figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund show 80,094 people are on the list for surgery, compared to 83,037 in September.
Another 494,530 patients need to see a specialist, nearly 63,000 of whom are waiting at least 18 months.
The underlying trend shows a worsening in the longest waiters for an outpatient consultation.
Waiting lists for endoscopy procedures, which are invasive diagnostic tests, also rose to 19,341 last month.
The failure to make any significant dent in the waiting lists - one of the major quandaries facing the Government - is particularly demoralising given the amount of extra funding that is being targeted at the backlog.
Health Minister Simon Harris said another €10m is now being directed at the problem.
"Comparing the inpatient and day-case waiting list numbers for October 2017 with October 2016 shows that there has been a 20pc reduction in the number of patients waiting over 15 months," he added.
However, this time last year the promise was that nobody would be on a list for more than 18 months.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher revealed he obtained figures showing 172 hospital beds are closed - more than a third due to staff shortages.
"Despite a lot of hot air from successive Fine Gael health ministers, little or no progress has been made in stemming the flow of nursing and medical graduates out of the Irish health system, and even less progress made on attracting those professionals who emigrated from Ireland.
"We have on average 400-500 people lying on trolleys every night of the year in our emergency departments; yet there are nearly 200 beds out of action, and not being used to allow patients be admitted to the hospitals. There can be no acceptance of bed closures," he added.