'It was bizarre' - Man's shock at 2024 appointment to see neurologist
A man who has been given an appointment to see a neurologist in January 2024 has told of his shock at the length of time he was expected to endure before being assessed by the specialist.
Matthias Kausch, a German national who has lived in Wexford for 16 years, received the letter from the neurology department in St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin after his GP referred him for an appointment.
Mr Kausch (49) was doubly perplexed to see the appointment was for New Year's Day.
"There is not one consultant in the country who would be willing to put a patient through on New Year's Day," he told the Irish Independent.
"I don't need to be urgently seen but I thought if I have not heard anything again in six months I will go back to my GP and ask [him] to follow up for me."
He said it was so bizarre he posted the letter on Facebook. His case was taken up by local Labour Party councillor George Lawlor who said yesterday it was just a symptom of the waiting list crisis now faced by hundreds of thousands of public patients.
A spokesperson for the hospital yesterday said the waiting time to see a neurologist can be as long as 18 months.
She blamed the appointment letter sent to Mr Kausch on a computer glitch.
However, it is unclear how many other patients received a similar outpatient clinic date and a review is now under way.
When a GP refers a patient to a specialist in the hospital they receive an acknowledgement letter.
She said this tells them they will get another letter informing them of their appointment date six to eight weeks in advance of it being confirmed.
However, it means patients referred today may not receive an appointment letter until the middle of 2019.
The letter sent to Mr Kausch was due to a "systems error".
"When new letter templates were installed on the IT system in the neurology department," the spokesperson said.
"This has now been fixed and the problem should not happen again."
The issue only was discovered when Mr Kausch went public.
The hospital is struggling to cope with the demand by patients to see a neurologist.
St Vincent's has four neurologists and the earliest a patient can be seen is three months after referral and the "longest is 18 months".
As of yesterday, Mr Kausch had received no new communication from the hospital.
The number of people waiting for a first time appointment to see a neurologist increased significantly last year.
There are more than 10,115 people waiting in excess of six months.
This has deteriorated since the Government took over when the figure stood at 6,568 waiting more than six months.
Neurologists see people suffering from a range of conditions including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, peripheral neuropathy, spinal cord tumours and stroke.
The number of neurologists in hospitals is lower per head of population than several other countries.