THE HSE has apologised if anybody has been offended by an exercise it is undertaking to get an accurate measure of the number of people waiting for an outpatients appointment in Limerick hospitals.
Figures show that Croom Orthopaedic Hospital and the Mid-Western Regional Hospital are the two worst-performing acute hospitals in the country when it comes to the number of people waiting over four years to be assessed by a consultant as outpatients. Between them, the two Limerick hospitals account for around 60% of people waiting for this length of time in all the country’s acute hospitals. But the HSE believes that many on the waiting list no longer require treatment. It is undertaking a validation exercise to confirm the true numbers waiting.
“The scale of the exercise can be judged from the fact that, unfortunately, this region has a very long waiting list for orthopaedic outpatient services (in Croom), up to 10,000 as of September 2012. Under the validation process some 1,800 of this number have been examined and it was discovered that some 86% did not require an appointment.”
Many patients may have been seen privately, others may have been inappropriately referred by their GP and more still may have passed away before being called for an appointment.
As the HSE moves towards a target of nobody waiting longer than 12 months for an outpatients appointment by the end of this year, waiting lists are being checked with letters going out to people on the lists.
“We try and be as sensitive as possible in validation with checks and balances in it in relation to establishing the status of individuals,” said Ann Doherty, CEO of the Mid-Western Acute Hospitals Group.
“It is a mailshot-oriented validation so there are risks in it and I do profoundly apologise if we offend anyone. But what we are trying to do is make sure that what resources we have are used well so that we are not filling our lists with patients that are not going to turn up, which is the purpose of validation.”
Two musculoskeletal physiotherapists had recently been appointed to help work through the waiting list in Croom while Ms Doherty said a “shortage of manpower” in specialties such as rheumatology and neurology had contributed to long waiting times at Limerick Regional.