Monday 21 January 2019

Patient delays for surgery worsen in crisis-hit hospitals

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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Waiting times for patients facing the longest delays for surgery have worsened again as overwhelmed hospitals buckle under the strain of record levels of overcrowding.

New figures released yesterday show 5,016 patients in February were waiting at least a year-and-a-half for surgery - up from 4,948 in January.

It comes as thousands of public patients have endured having their planned surgery cancelled since the beginning of the year due to a lack of beds and an influx of patients to A&Es.

These figures do not take into account the impact of the recent snow storm which forced hospitals to reduce to a skeleton service.

While the overall waiting list for surgery slightly fell from 80,204 in January to 79,039 last month, the escalation of those waiting long term, many of them very ill, is extremely worrying.

The target is to have no public patient waiting longer than 18 months - but this is getting further out of reach.

The same disturbing trend is seen in outpatient waiting lists with 74,627 now in a queue for at least 18 months to see a specialist, a jump of 1,235 in just a month.

There are 500,800 on outpatient waiting lists across the country with 8,808 children now delayed at least 18 months compared to 8,553 in January.

It recently emerged a child who needs to see an orthopaedic surgeon can wait three years. They are among 62,344 child and adult patients who are on a waiting list to see an orthopaedic surgeon.

Another 17,921 patients are in another queue for an endoscopy, an invasive diagnostic procedure.

The Government has promised to spend €50m this year purchasing treatments for public patients but the waiting lists, which have spiralled in recent years, will remain at critical levels until public hospitals have more beds and staff.

Meanwhile, the trolley crisis continued to rage yesterday as hospitals saw little respite in overcrowding.

There were 585 patients waiting for a bed across the country.

The highest numbers in Dublin were in Tallaght Hospital where 29 patients endured delays on trolleys.

The Mater Hospital and St Vincent's Hospital were also struggling.

The fears now are that next week will see another dangerous spike in trolley numbers as patients crowd into hospitals after the St Patrick's weekend.

The upcoming cold snap is also set to worsen the problem while hospitals continue to report significant numbers of flu patients.

Irish Independent

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