1,000 extra patients seeking surgeries and appointments in Limerick

More than 21,000 inpatients and outpatients at University Hospital Limerick

Fintan Walsh

Reporter:

Fintan Walsh

1,000 extra patients seeking surgeries and appointments in Limerick

University Hospital Limerick

MORE than 21,000 patients were waiting for appointments and treatment at the University Hospital Limerick by the end of January, according to figures published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).

According to the monthly figures, there were 18,988 people waiting for outpatient appointments, while there were 2,706 people waiting for inpatient and day case treatment. This is an increase of 1,128 people waiting, in comparison to the previous month.

The figures also show that there were more than 1,800 people waiting for more than a year for appointments and treatment.

In January 2015, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar set out goals for all hospitals that no person would be waiting for treatment or appointments for more than 15 months, by the end of 2015.

Though the University Hospital Limerick achieved this goal, figures for January show an increase of 238 outpatients and 36 inpatients waiting for more than 15 months.

The UL Hospitals Group is the best performing group in Ireland for lowest numbers in outpatient waiting lists, and has the second lowest rate of people waiting for treatment, behind the Children’s Hospital Group.

A spokesperson for the UL Hospitals Group said this Wednesday that among the reasons for the large increase appointments is “increasing demand and increase in the number of urgent referrals”.

Figures show that 4,364 people were waiting for dermatology appointments in January — a 206-person increase on December numbers.

There were 2,536 patients waiting for ears, nose and throat (ENT or otolaryngology) appointments in January — a hike of 219 people waiting in comparison to December figures. There were 85 people waiting for more than 15 months for ENT appointments. At the end of 2015, there were zero people waiting for the same time period.

The spokesperson said that whilst outpatient numbers are high for ENT and dermatology appointments, “urgent referrals are being facilitated”.

The full dermatology service at the UL Hospitals Group will move to a new unit, within the Leben Building, at the end of March, where inpatient and outpatient cases will be evaluated.

Additionally, the UL Hospitals Group is recruiting a fourth ENT consultant, and will soon advertise for a fifth consultant. The spokesperson said that the new consultant will support the hospital in achieving its outpatient and surgical waiting lists throughout the year.

The NTPF figures show that there was an extra 54 people waiting for geriatric medical appointments at UHL, at the end of January. Though there were zero patients waiting for more than 15 months at the end of 2015, figures recorded on January 28 show that there was one person waiting for more than 15 months, and five people waiting for more than 18 months.

In rheumatology appointments, there was an extra seven people waiting for more than 15 months, and one person waiting for more than 18 months. At the end of December, no person was waiting for more than 15 months in this area.

In relation to these figures, the spokesperson said that the majority of these patients have “chronic, complex illnesses.

“If patients are not able to take up the appointments offered for whatever reasons, they may be reinstated onto waiting lists from the original entry date.

“January has always been a month when, due to intense pressure on beds, we need to reduce non urgent surgical activity to free up beds for Emergency admissions,” the spokesperson added.

According to their figures, the UL Hospitals Group treated 44,000 inpatients and saw 225,000 outpatients in 2015. Additionally, all waiting list goals were achieved in 2015.

There were few specialties where outpatient waiting list numbers dropped since December.

These include anesthetics, cardiology, general medicine, pain relief and vascular surgery.

The spokesperson said that all patients are prioritised according to need.

“Beyond this, and in accordance with the national targets, UL Hospitals Group will continue to focus on seeing and treating those who have been waiting the longest.”

Meanwhile, more than 2,000 patients were waiting for treatment and appointments at St John’s Hospital, at the end of January. There were 1,222 people waiting for outpatient appointments, while there were 991 people waiting for treatment.

Figures show St John’s Hospital has the lowest outpatient waiting list numbers in Ireland.