The Health Service Executive (HSE) has been accused to failing to deliver a significant reduction in the 41,122 out-patients still waiting for treatment at Galway University Hospital.
HSE West Forum chairman, Councillor Padraig Conneely is becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress cutting the “horrendous” number of out-patients who are still on waiting lists at University College Hospital, Galway and Merlin Park.
However, the HSE insists it has made major inroads into reducing the length of time public patients are waiting for treatment in the two hospitals.
The health authority is also conducting a validation exercise for 25,000 patients on the waiting list before the end of the year. This will involve telephoning and sending letters to thousands of patients to see if they still need treatment.
Grave concern about the total number of out-patients on waiting lists was expressed by Councillor Conneely at a recent HSE Forum West meeting.
The HSE confirmed that 27 patients were waiting for treatment since 2007, 765 were on the waiting list since 2008, 3,186 started waiting in 2009, 7,519 in 2010, 11,014 in 2011 and 18,611 joined the list this year.
At the meeting, Councillor Conneely said Galway Roscommon University Hospital Group chief executive officer, Bill Maher had assured him earlier this year that progress would be made by the end of the year, yet he didn’t see any major reduction in the overall figures.
“Galway University Hospital is seeing about 4,000 out-patients a week. Why is the number of out-patients waiting for treatment still staying at 41,000? This is a horrendous figure. Some patients are waiting since 2007 for treatment.
“I will give credit for the reduction in the number of in-patients waiting for treatment. Now the out-patient list needs to be tackled,” he said.
Concern was also expressed by Councillor Mary Hoade, who asked if any work had taken place to reduce the large number of out-patients on the waiting list.
Councillor Hoade questioned the practice of giving the same appointment time to a group of people and wondered would it make more sense to stagger individual appointments at specific intervals. She asked if the HSE was doing anything to remind people of appointments.
Galway University Hospital manager, Tony Canavan pointed out that as quickly as the hospital was removing out-patients from its waiting list new ones were being added.
Stressing the hospital had significantly reduced waiting times, Mr Canavan said the number of patients waiting since 2007 was very low while 18,611 patients were waiting less than one year.
He told the meeting that the HSE wanted to reduce the time patients were waiting even further through its validation process. Acknowledging the total number of patients on the overall list was significant, he said the hospital was making progress in this issue.
Mr Maher said no patient was waiting for treatment since 2004 and 2005. Commenting on the number of no shows, Mr Maher said the HSE was introducing a two and five day text reminder to try and reduce the number of patients who failed to keep appointments.
Stating there were over 375,000 out-patients on waiting lists throughout the country, he argued that this put the Galway figures into perspective.
Councillor Hoade noted that a lot of patients were given out-patient appointments for the following year and suggested a reminder letter should be sent to patients.
Mr Maher said the HSE wanted to move to a system where there was an agreed appointment between the consultant and the patient. He added the HSE also needed to examine the number of appointments for new and review patients.