Waiting lists to see consultants in University Hospital Limerick and Ennis General Hospital have jumped by more than a quarter since the beginning of the pandemic.
More than 50,000 people in this region were waiting for in-patient or out-patient appointments at the end of last month.
National Treatment Purchase Fund figures show more than 45,000 people are now on an outpatient waiting list at UHL – that’s a jump of more than 9,000 people since Ireland’s first COVID-19 case in February 2020.
Nearly 19,000 of these people – or more than 40 percent – have been waiting for longer than 18 months.
That compares to just over 10,000 when the pandemic began and is in itself a jump of 84 percent.
A further 1,922 patients are waiting to see consultants in Ennis – 35 percent of those for more than a year and a half.
2,399 people are waiting for inpatient treatments in UHL as of the end of last month, along with 546 in Ennis – jumps of 25 and 16 percent respectively since February 2020.
The UL Hospitals Group told a meeting of Clare Councillors this week that it has plans to clear these waiting lists – beginning with the gradual restoration of its scheduled care capacity in line with public health advice.
The new outpatients department in Ennis opened just over two weeks ago, while the UL Hospitals Group has received funding approval for a further 32 consultants to be hired from the HSE.
The Group says it’s referred around 700 procedures to private hospitals in line with national policy and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, while it remains in regular contact with the National Treatment Purchase Fund on the matter.
Statement from the UL Hospitals Group
In terms of addressing hospital waiting lists, it should be noted that public healthcare in this country has not escaped the utter transformation of how life is lived and public services are provided during the pandemic.
In addition to the distancing and hand hygiene measures that, prior to the commencement of vaccination, had been our only defence against COVID-19, public hospitals have curtailed, postponed and rescheduled services throughout the pandemic in order to ensure that time-critical hospital care could be provided for the sickest and most vulnerable of our patients.
The increase in waiting lists shows that such curtailment is not sustainable indefinitely. UL Hospitals Group was glad last week to announce the beginning of a scaling up of scheduled care services, following our most recent deferral of services in response to the significant COVID-19 surge of early 2021.
It is envisaged that outpatient services in Ennis and Nenagh will restart in the next few weeks. Restoration of services will continue across the Group, subject to public health advice, at a gradual, slow and steady pace. The health system, like the country, remains in recovery, and at every step, the most time-critical and urgent cases will be prioritised.
Management has been focused on our inpatient and outpatient waiting lists throughout the pandemic, and devising means of minimising the inconvenience that our patients and their loved ones have experienced these past 12 months. Executive Oversight Meetings are held every week in order to review our waiting lists.
Over the past six months, UL Hospitals Group has secured the appointment of 15 new consultant posts in the areas of Endocrinology, Anaesthesiology, Radiology, Paediatrics, Medicine, Surgery and Trauma & Orthopaedics.
The Group has also been approved for the appointment of a further 32 new Consultant posts by the HSE to support our new developments on site.
We are currently progressing with these through the regulatory framework process with the Consultants Application Advisory Committee (CAAC), and we anticipate that many of these posts will be advertised for filling in the coming months.
Under the recently agreed Private Hospital Safety Net Service Agreement, UL Hospitals Group has undertaken a thorough review of urgent surgical and medical waiting lists, and referred in excess of 700 procedures to a number of private hospitals. It is anticipated that this activity will continue under the national agreement, which has a term of 12 months.
UL Hospitals Group is also discussing several initiatives with the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF), and wherever possible, virtual clinics are being used across our services, as a means of identifying patients who can be progressed whether for diagnostic imaging, minor procedures, or full episodes of care.