TWO people who asked to see an orthopaedic specialist in a County Limerick hospital 17 years and 12 years ago have at last received a hospital appointment.
Barry Cummins, originally from Cappamore and now living in Sydney, was originally referred to Croom Orthopaedic Hospital in 1996 by his doctor.
But it was not until last November that the hospital validation secretary wrote to him asking if he still required treatment. The letter asked him to complete a form to let them know if he still needed to see a specialist and requested that he return it within two weeks.
Another individual who does not wish to be identified was referred to the hospital in 2001 and received a response last November, again asking her to fill out a similar form. The letter was entitled Croom Orthopaedic Hospital Waiting List.
A spokesman for the hospital defended the move, saying every acute hospital is engaged in “the mammoth task of validating its outpatient waiting lists as part of the national programme to improve services to the public”.
He added: “This initiative is under way across the nation for all specialities. It means that waiting lists with many hundreds of names on them have to be checked to eliminate inaccuracies and to establish the facts as to how many people are waiting and in what areas.
“Historically, waiting lists have often contained inaccuracies for many different reasons, for example people moving away, going to a different hospital or consultant or changing their minds about the need for treatment, or moving to private practice.
“The only real way of checking the accuracy of a waiting list is by contacting every single person named on it and this inevitably turns up cases like this.
“The alternative would be to presume that certain patients – because of the age of their referral – are no longer in need of treatment and this would be quite unacceptable.”
He said they were moving towards greater use of technology to contact patients and to reduce the large numbers who fail to attend appointments.
Mr Cummins, who sent his letter to the Ray D’Arcy show on Today FM, received one of many validation letters that have issued recently from the Mid-Western Regional Hospitals Group.
“Unfortunately, this region has a very long waiting list for orthopaedic outpatient services, up to 10,000 as of September 2012. Once the exercise is completed we will have a much clearer picture,” said the hospital spokesman.
He explained that they had appointed one clinical specialist physiotherapist in September to assess and triage patients on the orthopaedic outpatient waiting list.