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Consultant rang TD to get patient scan

Mid-West deputy’s claim coincides with dramatic rise in waiting lists

A CONSULTANT working in University Hospital Limerick rang a Dáil deputy to arrange a scan for his patient, it was claimed this week.
This coincides with the release of new figures showing that the number of outpatients waiting for public treatment in excess of 18 months in Ennis Hospital has more than trebled.
Outpatients on the Ennis Hospital waiting list jumped from 235 in January 2020 to 855 in August 2021, according to figures obtained by The Clare Champion from the National Purchase Treatment Fund.
Up to 400 outpatients in Ennis Hospital are waiting between six and 12 months for health services, while another 285 are waiting between 12 and 18 months.
The number of inpatients waiting for treatment in the UL Hospitals’ Group has risen 28% up from 4,798 in January 2020 to 6,143 in August 2021.
Outpatients in UHL jumped 21% from 35,983 to 43,359, Ennis Hospital recorded a rise from 1,768 to 2,079, while numbers fell at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital from 7,061 to 4,812.
This problem is also significant in Galway University Hospital where some North Clare patients have been treated, as its outpatient waiting lists grew from 42,639 in January 2020 to 54,757 last August.
The dramatic rise in waiting lists for public patients in Clare and throughout the Mid-West is further illustrated by a claim from Deputy Maurice Quinlivan that a UHL consultant rang him last week asking him if he could get a scan for one of his patients.
Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, Deputy Quinlivan asked how bonkers is it that a consultant in the hospital has to ring a local parliamentarian to get a scan done in the hospital.
“There is something seriously wrong there. Health Minister Stephen Donnelly needs to intervene.
“We need to see a centralised referral system coupled with an integrated waiting system to manage this. The planning and additions will allow for patients to be seen at different hospitals as capacity allows.”
He cited a case of a woman in her mid sixties suffering from severe cartilage damage to her knee, who is deemed “urgent” on the waiting list, yet she was told she will be waiting for 30 months for treatment.
“How can the Minister stand over somebody waiting 30 months for an appointment that is deemed urgent? She will endure 30 months of pain and limited movement. She will be 70 years old by the time she sees her consultant. This is an absolute disgrace,” said Deputy Quinlivan.
Commenting on this week’s launch of Sinn Féin’s ‘Waiting List Experience Survey’, Deputy Violet Anne Wynne said that urgent action is needed “in the face of a tsunami of delayed and missed care which is barrelling down on the health service.”
Deputy Wynne said that this is particularly needed in Clare given the excessive waiting lists in Ennis General Hospital, and the sustained curtailment of ShannonDoc services.
“HSE waiting lists in are in excess of 2,500 for Ennis General Hospital. 477 on inpatient lists and 2079 on outpatient lists. However, we know treatments offered in Ennis have been reduced year on year now, so a lot of Clare folk are represented in the UHL numbers which are even more staggering, at 43,005. This number includes 4,895 children.
“Almost 60% of respondents have been waiting over 18 months.
“In particular, primary health care units need to be established in care, in the form of ShannonDoc services and additional resources relocated back to Ennis Hospital. I have been calling for the Minister to honour his commitment to develop one in Kilrush for some time now.
“Patients are waiting longer than ever to receive care.
‘One in five consultant posts are either vacant or filled on a temporary basis despite a sufficient graduate out-turn from our education system.
“There are four consultant posts not filled on a permanent basis across the services in the CHO3 area which is Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary. That’s over 10%.
“The mean number of days someone waits to see a paediatric cardiologist in UHL is 821 days; while if you are waiting to see a rheumatologist in Ennis, you should expect to wait 780 days.”
One survey respondent recorded being on a waiting list for 2,547 days to access a general surgery consultant in Galway University Hospital.
She said there is not one single dentist accepting new medical-card holding clients.
The lack of acute services available locally is putting excessive strain on the Emergency Department in UHL, which is constantly setting new record highs for presentations, 290 over a 24hour period earlier this month.
She called for an urgent plan to catch up on missed care, reduce waiting lists, and deliver a top class, universal public health service.
In a statement UL Hospitals Group group said it conducts ongoing review of lists, recruitment of consultants, and referral of urgent surgical and medical cases to the National Treatment Purchase Fund, and the Private Hospital Safety Net Service Agreement.
Over the past six months, the group has appointed 13 consultants in new and replacement posts in Anaesthesiology, Radiology, Neonatology, Medicine, Histopathology, Oncology, Paediatrics and Surgery.
It has also been approved for the appointment of a further 36 new Consultant posts by the HSE to support new developments on site. These are currently progressing through the regulatory framework process with the Consultants Application Advisory Committee (CAAC), and anticipate that many of these posts will be advertised in the coming months.
“The group has referred 2,440 urgent surgical and medical cases to private hospitals, and it is anticipated that this activity will continue under the national agreement, which has a term of 12 months.
“The group is also discussing initiatives with the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF), and wherever possible, virtual clinics are used across our services as a means of identifying patients who can be progressed for diagnostic imaging, minor procedures, or full episodes of care.”

by Dan Danaher

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