Cork University Maternity Hospital implements initiative to dramatically reduce waiting lists

Professor John Higgins

Cork University Maternity Hospital has implemented a major initiative this week to reduce out-patient waiting lists. The aim is to reduce the waiting list for gynaecology out-patient services by 500 in five days.

Professor John Higgins told RTE's Morning Ireland that this week’s initiative is part of a three-year plan to see how best to manage large waiting lists.

“We've done a number of new things. One of them is to cohort patients into eight major clinical conditions and to try see patients in groups, we find that much more efficient and effective.

“It's a whole mix of patients and our success, if we've had success, is that when we started we had 4,700 patients on the waiting list, we're down to just under 2,700 and we had 2,000 waiting over a year and now we have under 600 waiting over a year. It's a different approach.”

Prof Higgins explained that the hospital has tried a variety of measures. “Some of them have worked well, others haven't. This is just a big focus because we're pushing towards April when we want to reboot our gynaecology outpatient service.”

He pointed out that apart from reducing waiting lists the hospital also has to see new patients. “We get a 100 new referrals approximately every week, so we have been seeing them and doing the extra for the last 18 months.

This week we have an extra effort, we're all energised. It's not something you could do every week. We are happy to work through to 9pm and the atmosphere generally is very positive. The patients enjoyed the buzz in the hospital when they were here last night.

“It's the same staff working longer hours. We have a new governance structure for the whole duration of this initiative, we're now a clinically led hospital, the only one in the HSE and we've shown what a clinically led hospital will focus on, which are the hard difficult things such as long waiting lists for benign gynaecology in our case and what we've done is energised our entire staff - admin staff, medical staff, nursing staff - they're all on board and I couldn't compliment them enough for the work they're doing.”

Prof Higgins added that the current plan will run for another year and a half. “I think we're confident that we have now demonstrated our capacity and our ability to tackle the back log and the next phase for us, as long as we see these patients, is we have to bring these patients in for procedures, minor procedures, major procedures, that will require resources, but we have already got a second gynaecology theatre here that we've only waited 12 years to see in action since we opened and it's dusted down every morning, so we're ready for the next phase. Making it sustainable is the big challenge.”

He said that the hospital had taken a different approach in terms of management of lists which entailed bringing them up to date to ensure that patients were seen in a timely manner so their problems did not get worse.

“That's what we've found, we're seeing patients who have waited far too long for out-patients appointments, far too long for surgery and the minor problem they had have become something more serious.”

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