Consultant gynaecologists at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) have reacted angrily to a decision by Health Minister Simon Harris to postpone a meeting pivotal to resolving appalling waiting times for women with serious gynaecological problems, writes Catherine Shanahan.
In a strongly worded statement, the consultants said Mr Harris was effectively adding to waiting times by forcing the re-scheduling of patient appointments following his decision to cancel a meeting that should have taken place on Tuesday, but has been pushed out to March 30.
In the meantime, women with serious gynaecological problems including incessant bleeding, fibroids and painful sexual intercourse are increasingly turning to their GPs and TDs to lobby for them in a desperate bid to access treatment.
The Irish Examiner has seen a range of letters where doctors and politicians are pleading on behalf of women for intervention, including:
In response to a TD who wrote seeking help for one of his constituents, management at CUMH advised that because she had been triaged as “routine” she would be waiting “at least” 129 weeks for treatment.
February figures show 4,349 women on the outpatient waiting list, up from 4,193 last November, when the issue was highlighted in this newspaper — in the wake of which Mr Harris promised action to tackle the lists.
When asked why the minister had postponed the meeting, a spokesperson for the Department of Health said he was “committed to a follow-up meeting to address the issue of waiting lists at CUMH but the date has been rearranged to allow further consideration of proposals by his department”.
In their statement, the consultants said March 14 was the date “agreed by both parties”.
They said they were “unhappy with the postponement at short notice” and disappointed that “despite a request for minimum disruption to patient care, further rescheduling of patients’ surgeries and outpatient clinic appointments will now be required to allow consultants to meet the minister on the newly-appointed date”.
“Such rescheduling is disruptive for patients and further contributes to long waiting times for gynaecological surgery and outpatient review,” they said.
The consultants said a collaborative effort had gone into producing a business case for the optimisation of gynaecology services in Cork and that this business case was sent to Mr Harris last week.
They said the plan “promises greatly enhanced access to gynaecological care of the highest standard” but that it would “require significant investment by the Department of Health”.
The consultants said they were “keen to discuss” the proposals with the minister and their wish was for him to sign off on the key elements “without delay” and for work to begin “as soon as possible to reverse the effects of chronic underfunding of gynaecology services in Cork over the past decade”.
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.