PRELIMINARY analysis of outpatient waiting lists from Croom Orthopaedic Hospital shows a high proportion of “inappropriate referrals” or cases where patients have already been seen elsewhere, according to the HSE.
And the Executive has pledged that by the end of November, nobody would be waiting longer than 12 months to be assessed by an orthopaedic consultant in the County Limerick hospital.
The HSE was responding to figures this week that of 9,800 people nationally waiting over four years for an outpatients appointment, three in five are referrals to either Croom Orthopaedic or the Mid-Western Regional Hospital.
Over 4,100 have been waiting for an appointment in Croom for over four years, with Limerick Regional having the second biggest problem in the country with waits of four years and more - at over 1700 patients.
The figures show progress is at least being made at Limerick Regional, where over 4.800 people had been waiting over four years for an appointment last August.
The HSE is currently engaged in a housekeeping exercise regarding the outpatient waiting list in Croom and the initial results are that the number of people actually waiting to see a consultant is nothing like what their own figures suggest.
Up to 10,000 people were waiting for an outpatients appointment at Croom as of last September, the HSE said, and of 1800 cases examined so far, 86% of them no longer require an appointment.
“Every acute hospital in the country is engaged in the mammoth task of validating its outpatient waiting lists as part of a national programme to improve services to the public. This initiative is underway across the nation for all specialities,” a spokesman for the HSE explained.
“This means that waiting lists with many hundreds of thousands of names on them have to be checked to eliminate inaccuracies and to establish the facts, such as 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, inappropriate referral, going to a different hospital or consultant or changing their minds about the need for treatment.
“In addition there have been cases where hospitals made mistakes in record-keeping or referring GPs failed to inform hospitals of changing circumstances of the individual patient. When the waiting list is fully validated, we will have a real picture of actual need and this will help our doctors and nurses to plan their work more efficiently. We are also moving towards greater use of modern technology, for example texting to contact patients and to reduce the large numbers of patients who fail to attend scheduled appointments.”
“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, 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.”