- Shocking figures reveal the true extent of UHW’s waiting lists
- 9,242 waiting on Ear, Nose & Throat appointment – 121% up on 5 years ago
- Hundreds of patients waiting over 3 years for appointment
THE figures above are a comprehensive insight into the current failings of our health system. Behind each figure is a person, a family and a world of pain, fear and anxiety. They are officially some of the longest waiting lists in the country and graphically convey the work that lies ahead, not only for hospital management, but for our national politicians, lobbying and campaign groups, and members of the public.
The figures were requested by Sinn Fein TD David Cullinane who told the Waterford News & Star that he wanted to get a clearer picture about what was happening “year on year” with the hospital’s waiting lists.
“The figures have been going up quite considerably over the past five years with over 40,000 people in the South East currently waiting to see a consultant in UHW,” Deputy Cullinane said. “What’s worrying is that there are a number of specialities where it’s an acute problem, such as Orthopaedics, Otolaryngology (ENT), Ophthalmology, General Medicine, which are real pressure points in the hospital. Currently, there’s over 9,870 patients waiting 1-2 years to see a consultant, 5,227 waiting between 2-3 years and almost 2,000 waiting over three years.”
Otolaryngology is a medical speciality dealing with ears, nose and throat and is the source of the longest waiting lists at UHW. Back in 2015, the total number of patients waiting to see a consultant in this department was 4,177, which included three people who had been waiting over 3 years. That number jumped to 6,810 in 2016 and as of May 2019, that figure is now 9,242 with 57 people languishing on the list for over four years.
“When you’re stuck on waiting lists this size, with seemingly no clue of when you’re going to be seen, the psychological and emotional effects are considerable,” Deputy Cullinane said. “If you have an ailment and your GP gives you a referral to be seen in the hospital, then obviously there is a serious concern there. When you’re placed on one of these waiting lists you then have to endure whatever problem you’re suffering with the constant fear that it could get worse when going unseen. Many patients are actually given pain relief so that they can attempt to manage the pain while they’re waiting.”
Deputy Cullinane said that while long waiting lists have become the norm in UHW, that shouldn’t take away from the shock of the size of them.
“These pressure points have been there for the past seven years or more during which time we haven’t had the increased capacity that would reduce those waiting times,” Deputy Cullinane said. “Business plans have been prepared, for example, for a Centre of Excellence for Orthopaedics which would involve the movement of services from Kilcreene to UHW, the recruitment of more Orthopaedic Surgeons and the reduction of waiting times. That’s still in the early stages though and we have to ask why the Hospital Group is only pushing this now when they’ve known about the waiting times for years.”
There are a lot of children on the ENT waiting lists and UHW has identified the need for a new eye specialist clinic. The Waterford News & Star understands that a business plan has been developed, with no signs of them being progressed.
“There are solutions out there and UHW management have told us that they’re committed to pursuing them,” Deputy Cullinane said. “The new manager has said that she has assessed where the critical pressure points are, but we’ve been here before with previous managers who’ve known about this problem for a long number of years. We need the business cases to get funded by the HSE and Department of Health and you only have to look at how long it took to get funding for the mortuary and the cath lab to see why confidence is not high that these solutions can be implemented.”
Deputy Cullinane says that what needs to happen now is that people need to speak out.
“Sleeping on trolleys and languishing on long waiting lists have become the norm now, but they absolutely shouldn’t be,” Deputy Cullinane said. “Just because we are used to something, doesn’t make it right so we need people to speak out – loudly and often – about their battles with our health system. It is all too easy for our Government to ignore what it doesn’t hear.”