Almost 13,000 Limerick hospital appointments cancelled this year

ALMOST 13,000 outpatient appointments and procedures were cancelled at the hospitals in the UL Hospitals Group so far this year, it has been revealed.

This amounted to more than 45 cancellations a day across the group.

The 12,938 cancelled appointments and admissions for surgical, testing, and other procedures which are normally covered by a day in hospital were hit for a variety of reasons, including patients being admitted as an emergency, no beds or theatre time available, and patients deciding to pay privately for their consultation or procedure, a hospital spokesman told the Limerick Post.

The 2021 cyber attack on HSE records was also mentioned as a factor, along with Covid.

Of the cancelled appointments – which were in UHL, St John’s, the Maternity, Nenagh, Ennis, and Croom – the largest number of cancellations were in UHL where 5,951 people already being treated had return appointments cancelled, 1,420 new patients were put on waiting lists, and 293 elective in-patient admissions had to be cancelled.

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A total of 2,292 appointments and procedures were cancelled at the Maternity hospital, while 685 were cancelled in Croom.

Other reasons given by the hospital for having to cancel the appointments were clerical errors, cancellations by the patient, the patient being unfit to attend, cancellation by the consultant, or the procedure already having been carried out while the subject was an in-patient.

A spokesman for the hospital group said: “Some of these cancellations are linked to constraints in relation to capacity for a variety of reasons, including reduced access to surgical beds, delayed transfers of care, and Covid”.

“There are also events that can lead to cancellations such as industrial action, storms, and the cyber attack, which have all led to cancellations in this context.

“In all cases of planned elective access where cancellations take place, hospitals will assess capacity and prioritise patients who require urgent or time dependent access.”

“UL Hospitals Group is committed to ensuring that all patients whose appointments are deferred for any reason are rescheduled as soon as possible, with the most time-critical cases prioritised. We constantly validate our waiting lists to ensure that patients no longer requiring an appointment or procedure are not scheduled”.

The spokesman said that five initiatives are now in place within UL Hospital Group, including outsourcing appointments under the National Treatment Purchase Fund to target both the longest waiters and urgent time-critical patients.

“The initiatives are a mix of virtual and face-to-face consultations, procedures, and diagnostics, and are supported by numerous specialities across our sites,” the spokesman said.