CLLR Michael Hourigan has condemned as “totally unacceptable” revelations that almost one in 10 of the population are waiting to see a consultant having been referred by their GP.
Almost 362,000 nationally are waiting for an outpatients appointment - or “the waiting list to get on a waiting list” - with almost one third of these waiting for more than a year. These concern orthopaedic, neurological, dermatological, ophthalmological, general surgical and other complaints.
Figures compiled for the Department of Health show that the problem getting an appointment at an outpatient clinic is particularly acute in the Limerick region. Of the 17,000 patients who have been waiting for more than four years, more than half have been referred to either the Mid-Western Regional Hospital (4,826) or Croom Orthopaedic (4,813).
It is an issue Cllr Hourigan – as vice-chair of the HSE West Forum – said he had raised “on numerous occasions”.
“We are talking mostly about elderly people here who need medical attention urgently. Six months is too long to expect them to wait. To have people waiting two, three or four years or more is totally unacceptable,” said the Fine Gael councillor.
“It is something I had hoped would be resolved to a degree by now following the appointment of the new man (Fine Gael’s Dr James Reilly) as Minister for Health but it hasn’t happened as yet and it is very disappointing that waiting lists are still so long.”
Limerick Regional currently has the highest deficit of any acute hospital in the country, which has led to the cancellation of elective surgical procedures. The Irish Medical Organisation has also pointed to the failure of government to fund and fill promised consultant posts as one of the chief reasons for lengthy outpatients delays.
Cllr Hourigan said his inquiries with the HSE West had resulted in “no particular reason” why the problem is at its worst in the Mid-West.
But the pressures were across the system locally, he said.
“People trying to get physio at St Camillus after being seen in the Regional are facing long waits as well. I know of one person who has been waiting one-and-a-half years for physio at St Camillus, which again is totally unacceptable,” said Cllr Hourigan.
The HSE told the Limerick Chronicle earlier this year that once patients do get to see a consultant, the waiting list in respect of knee and hip replacements was generally less than one year. In January 68 people in the Mid-West were on the treatment waiting list for hip replacements and a further 42 were waiting for knee procedures.