Patients wait six years to see consultant
Many public patients in the west of Ireland are waiting between five and six years for an appointment to see a consultant in hospital outpatients, according to previously unpublished figures.
The figures show that 40,281 patients are currently on outpatient waiting lists in University Hospital /Merlin Park Hospitals in Galway City, with half of these patients waiting over a year for an appointment.
These figures, for May of this year, were not included in the recently published HSE national outpatient waiting list figures, which showed there were 205,000 people on outpatient lists around the country, including 46,000 waiting over a year.
The new figures show that Galway hospitals currently account for nearly one-third of the national total number of patients waiting over a year for a consultant appointment. The figures show that the two Galway city hospitals between them have more people on outpatient waiting lists than any other hospital in the country.
Including the recent Galway figures in the national total would bring the national outpatient waiting list to in excess of 245,000. However, the final national figure could be higher still, as a number of hospitals besides Galway have yet to provide confirmed outpatient waiting list numbers.
The recent national figures dating from the end of March, which excluded Galway hospitals, showed that 800 patients were waiting over four years and over for an appointment.
However, the Galway figures shed more light on exactly how long patients can be waiting and show that in some cases, patients can be waiting as long as six years and four months to see a specialist.
The longest waits in Galway are in orthopaedics - 6.3 years; nephrology (kidney disease) - 5.6 years; urology- 5.3 years, plastic surgery - 4.3 years, and ear nose and throat - 4.1 years.
A spokeswoman for HSE West told irishhealth.com the figures above refer to the longest time a patient on a list would be waiting to see a consultant in outpatients.
She said 51% of the patients on outpatient lists are waiting less than a year. However, no further detailed breakdown of exact numbers waiting in separate time categories, other than the longest waiting time, was made available.
HSE West said the Department of Health Special Delivery Unit (SDU) launched an initiative in March to deal with outpatient waiting lists and Galway hospitals had started work on an action plan to reduce waiting times at Galway hospitals.
The spokesperson said on average, Galway hospitals saw over 4,000 outpatients per week.
"We have identified key specialties that have very long waiting times and we will address these as a matter of priority. Our aim is to use the resources of all the hospitals in the (Galway-Roscommon) group to reduce the numbers waiting."
HSE West said in dealing with the waiting lists, the Galway outpatient lists were being validated as patients were contacted and called to each clinic, ensuring that only patients who still needed an appointment were given a date.
It said it was also working with patients to reduce the high numbers of non-attenders at outpatient clinics, as this added considerably to lists.
HSE West said in 2011, there were 35,000 appointments missed by patients not showing up.
The HSE, however, did not elaborate on exactly why so many patients have to wait so long for a specialist consultation. It is believed to be mainly due to a shortage of consultants in some specialties.
The breakdown of Galway waiting lists was provided in a response to Cllr Padraig Conneely for a recent meeting of the HSE West Regional Forum.
[Posted: Mon 18/06/2012]