MORE than 600 people have been waiting more than a year for operations in public hospitals, the Herald can reveal.
Hundreds of patients will spend Christmas wondering when they will finally receive news of their operation, with hospitals struggling to cope with large waiting lists.
Exclusive figures obtained by the Herald show that 629 people have been waiting for operations for more than 12 months.
One hospital alone accounts for over two-thirds of the entire waiting list.
And we can further reveal today that despite the major crises facing our hospitals, the government's sub-committee on health has met on just two occasions since its formation.
This compares to the likes of the sub-committee on economic infrastructure, which has met fie times, and the sub-committee on jobs, which has been convened on four occasions.
The Herald can today name the five worst hospitals for 12- month waiting lists.
Topping the list is University College Hospital in Galway, which has 430 people waiting for an operation.
This is followed by Dublin's Beaumont Hospital, the Mercy Hospital in Cork and Merlin Street Hospital in Galway, which have 50 people on their respective lists.
Cork University Hospital has the fifth largest waiting list with 37 people waiting.
The overall figure -- despite being down on last year -- was today condemned as "completely unacceptable" by one TD.
Galway East Labour TD Colm Keaveney told the Herald that hospitals have "no excuses" to run up waiting lists of over a year.
"We are talking about very needy and sick people here. It's completely unacceptable for anyone to be on a waiting list for over 12 months let alone 629 people. We need to root out the problem and find the cause whether its clinical or bureaucratic."
Some hospitals in the capital have reduced their 12 month waiting lists dramatically.
Tallaght Hospital -- which last year had 37 people waiting over a year to be treated -- now only has one patient. While the Mater has reduced its long-term list from 79 to 15.