199% increase in five years
This represents a staggering 199% increase compared with the waiting list figures at the hospital six years ago.
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) says there are now over 127,700 people on outpatient waiting lists at hospitals across the Saolta University Health Care Group, an increase of 53,000 (72%) since 2015.
As of July 2021, there were 6,471 people waiting for hospital treatment or to be assessed by a consultant at Roscommon University Hospital. This is compared to a figure of 2,164 in July 2015.
The IHCA says that a “severe shortage” of consultants is the primary reason for the delays. The group says that the shortage of consultants across a large number of specialities is restricting patients from accessing timely, high-quality medical and surgical care. They warn that the waiting lists are likely to worsen in the coming months as more people who have put off seeking care during the pandemic enter the system, and as a result of the ongoing impact of the cyber-attack on the HSE.
The hospitals that have seen the greatest growth in outpatient waiting lists are Roscommon University Hospital, which has seen its list increase 3-fold (+4,307, 199%) since July 2015, and Mayo University Hospital, where there has been an additional 9,473 people added over the same period, an increase of 162%.
Some of the longest waiting lists across the whole region are for routine, planned care particularly in Orthopaedics, ENT (Otolaryngology), Urology, General Surgery, Ophthalmology, Gynaecology and Dermatology. Patients are waiting to see a consultant and then receive treatment for procedures such as hip or knee replacements, tonsillectomies, prostate biopsies, and cataract surgery, while others face similar waits for critical gynaecological assessments and skin biopsy for possible cancers.
IHCA President, Professor Alan Irvine, said: “This shocking increase in waiting list figures demonstrates the impact of years of consultant shortages and underinvestment in capacity across public hospitals in the region. We now have a chronic recruitment and retention crisis”.
He called for the urgent filling of vacant permanent hospital consultant posts and the expansion of the region’s hospital beds, operating theatres and other essential hospital facilities.
Acknowledging the impact of the pandemic and the cyber-attack, Professor Irvine still laid most of the blame at central government, referencing “persistent underinvestment in hospital infrastructure over the past decade”.
He added that the “immense backlog of care” is dangerously close to overwhelming our public hospitals.