There are fresh calls for vacant posts at the region’s main hospital to be filled urgently in an attempt to address the backlog of cancelled procedures there.
It comes as new figures show tens of thousands of appointments have been cancelled at the region’s main hospital in the past 18 months.
Nearly 70,000 appointments have been cancelled at University Hospital Limerick in the last 18 months, with the number of in-person appointments also falling by a third in 2020, largely as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.
The Emergency Unit in Dooradoyle has been advising the public to seek alternative medical care if their case is non-urgent in recent weeks, after a spike in presentations to the facility.
The UL Hospitals Group has appointed more than 15 new consultants to posts in the last 12 months, with work understood to be ongoing to fill further vacant positions.
Aontu member Sarah Beasley, whose party uncovered the figures, is calling for further funding to be ringfenced to for UHL to deal with the backlog.
The Irish Patients Association has described the numbers as a matter of grave concern.
Spokesperson Stephen McMahon has told Clare FM’s Morning Focus that this a serious issue that needs to be addressed.
A Clare Health campaigner has acknowledged that no-one expected what would unfold during the pandemic and admits that has to be taken into account.
But Ennis Independent Councillor Ann Norton, who’s a former member of the HSE’s Regional Health Forum West, says steps have to be taken to prevent the loss of lives from conditions other than Covid.
The Covid-19 Clinical Lead for the UL Hospitals Group insists that decisions to cancel appointments during the pandemic were not taken lightly and followed national guidance.
Dr Sarah O’Connell says a number of steps were taken to help the situation, including reviewing urgent and time critical procedures on an ongoing basis.
These took place when it was safe to do so, while over 2,000 cases were referred to private hospitals, to allow procedures to go ahead.
Dr O’Connell, who’s also an Infectious Diseases Consultant, says they’ve learned a lot from the Covid-19 pandemic and she expects to be able to provide as much scheduled care as possible going forward.