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Almost 560,000 patients waiting for their first outpatient hospital appointment last month

The figures come at a time when the coronavirus is putting pressure on the public health system.

Image: Shutterstock/hxdbzxy

ALMOST 560,000 PEOPLE in Ireland were waiting for their first outpatient hospital appointment in February – an increase of almost 2,000 patients on the previous month. 

Figures released from the National Treasury Purchase Fund (NTPF) show that a total 558,554 people are on the waiting list, an increase on the 556,770 patients who were waiting in January. 

There were a further 66,705 people waiting for an appointment for they inpatient or daycare procedure, while a further 22,705 patients were waiting to receive an appointment for their GI Endoscopy. 

The public health service has come under pressure in recent weeks following the outbreak of Covid-19 coronavirus, which lead to a number of outpatient appointments being cancelled in some hospitals. 

Following the release of the latest figures from the NTPF, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) president Dr Donal O’Hanlon said the figures were heading in the “wrong direction” once again. 

“Another year has passed by without any discernible improvement for patients in accessing our public hospitals. The figures continue to go in the wrong direction, which is unacceptable,” he said. 

“The next Government must now listen to what voters want and quickly move to address the overwhelming capacity deficits in our public hospitals.

“Increasing beds and filling the over 500 vacant permanent consultant posts must be urgently addressed to reduce waiting lists and provide timely quality care to patients.”

The IHCA said the latest figures for outpatient appointments represents “an increase of 33,545 over the last 12 months”.

Earlier this month, TheJournal.ie revealed that issues around citizenship applications were now an incentive for doctors to leave Ireland despite an ongoing challenge to fill empty consultant posts within the HSE. 

Organisations including the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) have put pressure on the Irish government in recent years to tackle the shortage of doctors, which they say would also positively impact on waiting list numbers and alleviate the trolley crisis. 

However, doctors from outside of Europe, living in Ireland for more than five years, and who have applied for citizenship, are reporting years-long delays in having their applications processed.

“We should be making Ireland a place where the best and brightest want to work, where we welcome folks who are highly skilled, and professionals who we need to help our health service,” Paul Maier, Industrial Relations Officer with the IMO said.  

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