Friday 23 February 2018

Number on hospital waiting lists at record 509,994

Health Minister Simon Harris. Picture Credit : Frank McGrath
Health Minister Simon Harris. Picture Credit : Frank McGrath
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Hospital waiting lists, which are spiralling out of control, have reached a new record high - with 9,000 more public patients added to the queue since Health Minister Simon Harris took office.

The figures for May show 509,994 patients are either waiting for an operation, an outpatient appointment or an internal endoscopy examination.

Patient misery deepens as numbers waiting for an outpatient appointment have gone up from 407,257 to 415,584 in the space of a month.

And the backlog of patients needing surgery rose from 74,274 to 74,986.

Even the modest targets set by the HSE are getting further out of reach. Some struggling hospitals are unable to reach their pledge to deal with those waiting longest and are falling short of reducing the numbers of patients languishing on lists for more than 15 months.

There were 5,418 people waiting for surgery for more than 15 months in May.

This is a massive jump compared to the 4,603 enduring the same length of delays in April.

Some 13,095 were waiting in excess of 18 months in May for an appointment to see a specialist - up from 8,570 in April.

Of those waiting for surgery, 4,704 are children, 58 of whom are in the queue for more than a year and a half.

Galway University Hospital has the longest list of patients waiting for surgery in the country with a massive 11,099 needing an operation. Some 739 are waiting at least 18 months.

The Mater Hospital in Dublin has 6,473 waiting for surgery.

In Limerick University Hospital, 3,065 need an operation, according to figures by the National Treatment Purchase Fund.

The figures show the uphill battle the new Government faces in order to make inroads into the backlog of patients who are enduring pain and, in some cases, are suffering from deteriorating conditions.

It comes despite a slight easing of the trolley crisis in recent weeks although serious levels of overcrowding continue to plague several hospitals.

Figures for May from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) show a 14pc reduction in the numbers of patients on trolleys. But the union warned this will be short-lived if the recruitment pause, recently announced by the HSE, "is not stood down immediately."

Mr Harris said last night that 23,000 fewer people are waiting for an outpatient appointment for over a year when compared to May 2015.

But he said the "May figures emphasise the absolute need for a sustained commitment to improving waiting times for patients from across the health service.

"We need to focus in particular on those patients waiting longest and we commit to continued investment of €50m per year to reduce lists."

Some 60pc of patients wait less than six months for their outpatient appointment or inpatient and day case procedure.

The plan is to revive the role of the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) in outsourcing lists.

This will deliver on the specific commitment of €15m in ring-fenced funding for the NTPF next year, he added.

However, this funding will not become available until 2017.

Irish Independent

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