UL Hospitals CEO, Prof Colette Cowan
THE LENGTHY waiting list for outpatients at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital has grown even further following the resignation of a key consultant surgeon this year.
The UL Hospitals Group confirmed that following the recent resignation of a top consultant, there were “insufficient orhopaedic resources to cover all orthopaedic clinics in the group”.
As a result, the outpatients service at Ennis Hospital was suspended and all patients were transferred to Croom.
UL Hospitals confirmed this first to Independent TD Dr Michael Harty, who had questioned Minister for Health Simon Harris why the service in Clare was withdrawn.
Responding to Deputy Harty’s parliamentary question, UL Hospitals’ CEO, Prof Colette Cowan said that the consultant’s Ennis clinic has to be withdrawn until a replacement is appointed.
Prof Cowan described this as “unfortunate...but it is envisaged that this clinic will be reinstated in July 2018 once recruitment for a new consultant is finalised”.
In January, there were 6,695 patients waiting for orthopaedic appointments at Croom. This rose to 6,885 the following month.
In response to Prof Cowan’s correspondence, Deputy Harty said: “The suspension of services at Ennis inconveniences Clare people and adds to the workload of the already overstretched orthopaedic services in Limerick.
“Three years ago, I contacted the HSE about the discontinuation of the ophthalmology eye outpatients service in Ennis. I was told that once new appointments were made, the service would recommence. It hasn’t restarted to this day and there is currently no ophthalmology outpatients service in Ennis.
“My concern is now that the orthopaedic outpatients service has been discontinued, that it also will not recommence even when the new consultant appointment is made,” Dr Harty stated this week.
A spokesperson for the UL Hospitals Group told the Leader this Wednesday aternoon: “The Group has recently advertised for two consultant orthopaedic surgeons and it is envisaged that the outpatients clinic in Ennis will reopen from July 2018 once one or both of these posts is/are filled.
“Since this resignation a locum consultant has been engaged to cover the fracture clinic at UHL, freeing up as much consultant resource as possible to cover OPD clinics in Croom and UHL.
“In respect of the consultant who has recently resigned, his clinics in Croom continue under the governance of another consultant orthopaedic surgeon. All patients who are waiting are prioritised according to medical 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,” the spokesperson said.
He added that among the reasons for the increase in the number of patients waiting for appointments “is the significant growth in demand; an increase in the number of urgent referrals in some specialties and a shortage of consultants in other specialties. Addressing the shortage of these senior clinical decision-makers in the key specialties concerned is a priority for UL Hospitals Group”.
UL Hospitals was asked if a successful candidate had been selected, but this was not confirmed.
In recent months, according to National Treatment Purchase Fund figures, over 40,000 patients have been waiting for treatment and appointments in Limerick hospitals.