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Over 612,000 people waiting on outpatient hospital care

The outpatient waiting list has grown by nearly 45,600 since last year.

Image: Shutterstock/Andrei_R

MORE THAN 612,000 people are awaiting outpatient care as hospital waiting lists around the country continue to grow, including 45,000 in need of an appointment from Children’s Health Ireland.

As of the end of October, 612,817 outpatients in Ireland are on a waiting list for care, according to the latest figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).

The number of people waiting to be seen by a consultant has reached a record high.

The waiting list has grown by nearly 45,600 since last year, when over 567,000 were awaiting care at the end of October 2019.

In the south and southwest, hospitals in Cork, South Tipperary, Kerry and Waterford have the highest collective number of outpatients waiting to be seen of any regional hospital group in the country.

Closely following is the Ireland East Hospital Group, which includes several hospitals in Dublin, Kildare, Westmeath, Kilkenny and Wexford; and the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, which includes the Midland Regional Hospitals in Portlaoise and Tullamore and more hospitals in Dublin, Kildare, and Offaly.

Overall, there are more than 844,000 people in Ireland on waiting lists for healthcare.

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has pointed to 500 vacant consultation positions as a factor to the growing waiting lists.

IHCA President Professor Alan Irvine said that the government ” can no longer ignore the fundamental requirement that the provision of timely hospital care to patients cannot be achieved with an insufficient number of hospital consultants and hundreds of vacant permanent consultant posts”.

No amount of investment in services will reduce waiting lists unless we recruit and retain the necessary number of consultants to deliver timely care.”

Irvine said that in addition to filling the consultant posts, “additional acute hospital capacity needs to be commissioned and opened at speed to provide essential care to non-Covid-19 patients as well as to Covid-19 patients”.

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Health David Cullinane said that the latest figures show wait times are “going up year-on-year”.

“In October 2016, the number of people on outpatient waiting lists was 438,931. This had grown to 567,221 by September 2019 and now stands at 612,817,” Cullinane said.

“Of that, the number of patients waiting 18 months or longer since 2016 has risen from 26,796 to 153,872. That is an increase of 127,076 patients over four years,” he said.

“The numbers waiting 18 months or longer for an inpatient procedure have risen from 4,733 to 8,498 in the last year.

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“Several constituents who came to me are part of 7,963 waiting more than a year on a cardiology appointment,” Cullinane said.

“Cardiovascular problems are, alongside cancer, the leading cause of death in this state. Yet the number of people waiting more than a year has doubled in the last four years,” he said.

“Despite all of the spin, wait times are going up year-on-year, and this is not Covid-related.

“Treatment for scoliosis in children and cancer services – medical, radiology and surgery oncology – are also down nearly 30% this year.”

Cullinane said that Ireland needs to “get real” about “investing in health or we will continue to cause more suffering and hardship for people in need of urgent treatment.”

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