Shock rise in hospital waiting lists
The number of patients waiting more than nine months for hospital treatment has skyrocketed over the past two months after falling substantially in 2012, new figures show.
Latest figures show that of 2,141 adult and child patients were waiting over nine months for a hospital procedure at the end of February, compared to only 109 patients in this category at the end of 2012.
Of these, 396 patients are waiting over 12 months for treatment, compared to only 37 at the end of last year, while 1,745 are waiting between nine and 12 months for treatment, compared to only 72 at the end of December.
The Department of Health told irishhealth.com that winter pressures in hospital emergency departments had led to the increase, but it expected the waiting lists to reduce again as winter pressure on hospitals eased.
The average waiting time for treatment for patients on waiting lists has increased from 2.1 to 2.7 months since December.
The total number on waiting lists in all time categories has increased from 51,708 to 53,400 over the past two months, according to new figures produced by the National Treatment Purchase Fund’s (NTPF) Patient Treatment Register.
The recent major rise in ‘long waiters’ on treatment lists follows a huge reduction in the number of patients waiting over nine months for treatment in 2012 as a result of an initiative by Health Minister James Reilly‘s Special Delivery Unit (SDU).
The NTPF figures show that the number of patients waiting over nine months for treatment dropped from 4,884 in February 2012 down to 109 in December. During that period, the average waiting time for treatment dropped from 3.1 to 2.1 months.
Minister Reilly and the HSE had pledged that no patient would be waiting over nine months for treatment by the end of 2012, and the current target is to reduce the maximum treatment waiting time to eight months this year.
The figures would indicate that Dr Reilly’s waiting list initiative is in danger of coming off the rails following the recent increase in waiting numbers and waiting times.
However, a Department of Health spokesperson said ‘significant bounceback’ in waiting times in the early months of this year was expected, as winter pressures in emergency departments had impacted on scheduled care waiting times.
“In the coming months, as winter pressures ease, the SDU will work towards re-balancing scheduled care both to maintain the improvements seen in 2012 and to achieve the new 2013 target that no adult should be waiting longer than eight months for treatment.”
The Department said the figure of 2,14 people waiting over nine months for treatment was the total number of adults and children waiting and patients waiting for routine endoscopes, each of which had different targets.
The figures show that around 97% of the 2,141 figure comprises adults waiting over nine months for treatment, with the remainder made up of children awaiting treatment and patients awaiting endoscopies.
The Mater currently has 5,011 patients on waiting lists for hospital treatment, of which 521 have been waiting longer than nine months for treatment, or 10% of total patients on waiting lists at the hospital.
The hospital with the next worst record for long waiters is Cork University Hospital, where 236 (just under 9%) of its 2,708 patients on waiting lists have been waiting over nine months for treatment.
The hospital with the largest number of patients on waiting lists is St James’s in Dublin, with 5,529. However, only 3.5% of these patients have been waiting over nine months for treatment.
The Housing Minister Jan O’Sullivan has said December’s Budget will bring pain for everyone.
Ms O’Sullivan made the comments during a visit to Tralee where she officially opened three regeneration projects in the Mitchels-Boherbee scheme.
The Minister said the Government has tough decisions to make in order to achieve €3.5bn in savings.
Speaking to Radio Kerry, she said she is hoping to protect regeneration project funding, but said there will be cuts right across all Government departments.
Ms O’Sullivan said: “We have to take €3.5bn out of the economy by way of cuts and taxation and that’s not going to be easy, we have very difficult decisions to be made. Therefore everything is pretty much on the table.
“We haven’t made those decisions yet. We want to make them in a way that is fair and in a way that protects the most vulnerable and that is going to be our top priority, but it will be difficult and there will be pain for everybody.”