THE NUMBERS waiting for an appointment for more than 18 months at the University Hospital Limerick have increased fourteen-fold on last year, it has been revealed.
Fianna Fáil TD for Limerick City Willie O’Dea said it is “totally unacceptable” that patients are not getting access to health services in the Mid-West that they clinically need. He was speaking this week after it emerged that the numbers on waiting lists are continuing to increase.
The total number of people waiting in the University of Limerick Hospital group now stands at 43,176.
“The figures have never been as bad. What’s more startling is that despite the public outcry, and the hand wringing from Minister Harris less than two months ago, following an RTÉ Investigates exposure on the rocketing waiting lists that are slowly grinding the health system to a halt, it has gotten worse,” Deputy O’Dea told the Limerick Post.
“According to the most recent figures for April 2017, there are 37,145 outpatients waiting for treatment in the University of Limerick Hospital group, including 4,454 waiting over 18 months. This compares to a total of 31,649 one year ago and 307 waiting over 18 months. The fact that the numbers waiting over 18 months for treatment have grown from 307 one year ago to 4,454 — a 14 fold increase — says it all about the deterioration of the health service.”
The same figures, he said, show that in April 2017 there are 6,031 inpatients or day case patients waiting for treatment in the UHL group — compared to 5,384 this time last year.
O’Dea now believes the health system is facing an existential crisis yet claims Health Minister Simon Harris “thinks that public pronouncements of disappointment are what are needed”.
The Limerick TD is also of the view that there isn’t enough spending on care and the health system is unable to recruit and retain the staff needed to provide the top class healthcare that is necessary.
“Minister Harris needs to quickly secure approval from the Department of Public Expenditure for additional funding, not transferred funding, to scale up the NTPF to tackle these waiting lists. Unless targeted action takes place, our health system may be irrevocably damaged, and we all suffer as a result,” O’Dea warned.
In response, UL Hospitals Group explained that in 2016 it saw over 228,000 outpatients and almost 57,000 day case patients and the numbers currently waiting for inpatient or outpatient appointments can be viewed in this context.
“UL Hospitals Group achieved all waiting list target times for inpatient and day case procedures as set out in the HSE National Service Plan 2016 – the only hospital group in the country to do so.
“We continue to work towards meeting the waiting list targets as set out in the National Service Plan for 2017,” UL Hospitals Group said in a statement.
They also stated that all patients who are waiting – either for their initial outpatient appointment or for a surgical procedure – are prioritised according to medical need.
by Alan Jacques