NEW measures are needed to attract more consultants and nurses in acute hospitals to reduce the high numbers of patients on in-patient and out-patient appointments in the Mid-West.
That’s according to former HSE West Forum chairman, Councillor Tom McNamara, who described the latest figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund for the Mid-West as “totally unacceptable”.
With an estimated 30% of consultant posts in the UL Hospitals’ Group vacant, Councillor McNamara claimed there aren’t enough medical staff to open a second operating theatre at weekends.
The Kilmaley Councillor called on Health Minister Simon Harris to introduce a new incentive to defray the cost of training for new nurses on the basis they commit to working for at least three years in the public health service to address the nursing shortage.
According to figures released by the National Purchase Treatment Fund (NPTF), the total number of in-patients waiting for treatment in the UL Hospitals’ Group increased from 5,533 last January to 5,693 last November.
According to the UL Hospitals’ Group, the latest NTPF figures for the group are in line with expectation.
They reflect national policy as announced by the Minister for Health where a focus would initially be placed on those waiting longest for inpatient and day case procedures.
A group spokeswoman pointed out the figures also show an overall 45% decrease in patients waiting 12 to 15 months for an inpatient/day case procedure in comparison with the same period last year.
In relation to outpatients, the spokeswoman pointed out numbers should be seen in the context of more than 216,000 outpatient attendances across the group in 2017.
The group notes the increased allocation to the NTPF in 2019 and looks forward to the announcement of the Outpatient Action Plan which is being finalised by the HSE, the NTPF and the Department of Health. This plan is focused on improving overall use of resources to tackle long outpatient waiting times and to ensure more timely access to treatment and care for patients.
Under a nationally funded initiative, Nenagh Hospital became a national centre of excellence for cataract surgery. All suitable cataract surgery within UL Hospitals Group is to migrate from University Hospital Limerick (UHL) to the new theatres at Nenagh.
Under this initiative, Nenagh will have seen 200 surgeries completed by the end of this year and as the group move to being a truly national centre, and from one day a week to five days a week, it expects to carry out at least 10 times that number in 2019.
“The group knows it need to make progress in Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) and it is looking to undertake a similar initiative in Ennis Hospital to make inroads in this subspecialty. A new consultant ENT surgeon will take up post this month, and the group are confident its has the staff engagement and the facilities in Ennis to make a significant contribution nationally on ENT waiting lists,” she stated.
All patients who are waiting for appointments are prioritised according to clinical need with urgent cases being the highest priority. Beyond this, UL Hospitals Group will continue to focus on seeing and treating those who have been waiting the longest.
Among the reasons for the overall increase for the group is the significant growth in demand; an increase in the number of urgent referrals in some specialties, such as ENT and Orthopaedics, and a shortage of consultants in other specialties. A new consultant surgeon in ENT has taken up a post within the Group and it is recruiting two new consultant orthopaedic surgeons.
In 2018, a particular focus has been placed on the validation of outpatient waiting lists by UL Hospitals Group in line with national plans to address wait times for patients.
As part of the validation process, the group is contacting all patients waiting over six months to see if they wish to remain on the waiting list. The purpose of this exercise is to ensure that existing resources are optimised and that it improves overall access times for patients.
The group expects to see an improvement in the number of patients waiting extended periods of time as a result of this exercise.