Sunday 24 June 2018

Waiting lists swell as hospitals cancel 3,400 surgeries a month due to trolley crisis and lack of staff

A four-month waiting period for the treatment of children with scoliosis promised by the end of 2017 will not be met. Stock photo
A four-month waiting period for the treatment of children with scoliosis promised by the end of 2017 will not be met. Stock photo
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Public hospitals are now cancelling around 3,400 planned surgeries every month.

The cancellations - which can be due to the trolley crisis, lack of staff, infection control or other personal reasons - are adding to the backlog that has led to a record number of more than 690,000 patients on waiting lists.

Health Minister Simon Harris said: "All efforts are made to limit cancellations, particularly for clinically urgent procedures."

However, there is growing distress among around 800 patients who were due to have orthopaedic surgery but are now on hold while a leaking roof in Merlin Park Hospital, Galway, is repaired.

A hospital spokeswoman said: "The roof will require significant repairs and we are currently working with HSE Estates to progress this work. It has meant that, unfortunately, we have had to cancel [for] those elective orthopaedic patients who were scheduled to have their operations in this theatre.

"Approximately 60 patients per week are treated in the theatres concerned and they have been contacted to advise them that their procedure will have to be deferred."

The organisation representing 19 private hospitals across the country yesterday called on Mr Harris to double the proposed special allocation of €50m which is to be targeted at hospital waiting lists in 2018.

Simon Nugent, chief executive of the Private Hospital Association, said if €100m was allocated annually for the next three years it would drive down waiting times with the potential to outsource many thousands of patients to private hospitals.

The Government allocated €20m to waiting lists this year, some of which was used to pay for treatment for public patients in private hospitals.

Mr Nugent said: "The piecemeal approach taken to date is not making any discernible impact and is resulting in poor value for money for the taxpayer."

Mr Harris revealed that to date 5,295 patients have been authorised for treatment in private hospitals and 2,065 patients accepted. Just 954 had received the procedure.

Another 2,496 have been earmarked for treatment in public hospitals. Some 558 offers have been accepted but only 104 patients have been treated.

A spokesman for the Private Hospitals Association said private hospitals treat patients promptly and work to a target to schedule treatment for a date within six weeks of receiving the patient's file from the referring public hospital.

While the pace of referral was slow in the first half of the year, more patients continued to be referred to private hospitals and treated throughout the summer months. There are no capacity constraints currently preventing any referred patients from being treated in private hospitals, he added.

A spokesman for the National Treatment Purchase Fund, which negotiates the outsourcing of patients, said some people want to stay on with their own hospital, maybe for medical reasons, and others no longer need the procedure.

Irish Independent

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