A maternity hospital which had the worst waiting list in the country for outpatient gynaecology services has launched a five-day blitz to reduce by 500 the number waiting for treatment.
Two years ago, 4,700 women were on the outpatient gynaecology waiting list at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) and consultants warned that women’s lives were being jeopardised.
They asked Health Minister Simon Harris for four additional obstetrician/gynaecologists; more theatre time and the opening of a second gynaecology theatre; a gynaecology day ward and a gynaecology one-stop shop.
The minister promised €14m in funding over a three- year period but, to date, just €1.1m has materialised.
However, Professor John Higgins, who took on the role of clinical director of maternity services for the South/Southwest hospital group circa two years ago, said the waiting list figure had reduced to 2,700 by last month and the target was to reduce it to under 1,000 by April 2019.
The five-day blitz is part of this initiative.
Prof Higgins said a number of positive developments had taken place in the past 18 months, including:
Prof Higgins said they were also changing some work practices with an extended working day to better maximise resources.
“Every time there’s a new development we have to look at how we can make it work. There’s not enough emphasis on saying ‘well hold on, we can do this differently’ rather than simply saying ‘we need more resources’.”
He said they had also started doing more cystoscopy (examination of the bladder) procedures in the past six months, as well as dramatically improving access to ultrasound scans.
And by grouping patients according to eight major conditions, they were dealing with waiting lists more efficiently.
The aim of the current “big push”, he said, is to try and clear the backlog in gynaecology services to the point where they could have a whole new-look service by April.
He said there are five new consultant posts in the offing, although none is in-post as yet.
Neither has the hospital ever opened a second gynaecology theatre.
Prof Higgins said this meant they had “half the capacity we should have” and this would be the next item on the agenda to prevent further inordinate backlogs.
Fianna Fáil TD Aindrias Moynihan who campaigned for improved gynaecology services said the five-day blitz is welcome but it is “essential” that the second theatre is opened.