17,000 waiting over four years to see consultant

Almost 17,000 people — including heart, orthopaedics, kidney, neurology, and cancer patients — have been waiting over four years for an initial hospital consultant outpatient appointment.

HSE figures show that, despite repeated ministerial promises to resolve the delays, the long-term treatment backlogs are continuing across a range of vital specialities in the system.

Leading medical website irishhealth.com has revealed that, of the 351,000 people on outpatient lists, 117,000 are still waiting more than a year to be seen for the first time by a hospital consultant.

Of this figure, 16,903 are waiting as long as four years across all hospitals in the country.

This is despite the fact that Health Minister James Reilly is bidding to finally address lengthy waiting times for vital hospital treatment via his special delivery unit team.

While the above delays are lengthy, for patients facing the extensive waits, the queue for accessing care does not end when they are finally seen.

An initial outpatient hospital consultant appointment is generally considered to be a waiting list to get on to a second waiting list for more specialised care.

As such, the actual wait for specialised care is longer than the initial outpatient hospital consultant appointments.

Among the most extensive delays by speciality, according to the HSE’s latest figures for the end of June, are those seeking help for various heart, kidney, neurology, and orthopaedic problems.

Currently, 6,481 people have been waiting over four years to see an orthopaedic outpatient surgeon — the vast majority of whom are elderly patients suffering from hip and joint problems.

A further 954 people have been told they must wait the same amount of time to receive expert care for brain-related issues which could prove far more problematic than initially suspected.

Cardiology outpatient hospital consultant waiting times mean that 137 patients with heart problems have been waiting for help since 2008 — despite their health difficulties being potentially life-threatening.

The issue is repeated again in the urology and kidney specialisms, with 432 and 108 people respectively facing near identical delays in public medical help.

And, while they are extremely rare cases, the official rates also show that three cancer patients have been told to wait as long as four years before they can see an outpatient hospital consultant — the first in a number of queues towards accessing the care they need.

While the figures are startling, the latest HSE update report suggests they may not be a full account of the problems facing the system, with many hospitals submitting incomplete lists of patients.

In May, Waterford Regional Hospital said it had 710 patients waiting over four years for an outpatient appointment.

However, within a month this rate had surged by almost 600%, to 4,122. Similar issues were also identified at Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, among others.

Long wait

* 351,00 people are on initial outpatient hospital consultant waiting lists.

* 117,000 have been waiting over a year.

* 16,903 have been waiting over four years.

* 6,481 people with orthopaedic problems have been waiting for help since 2008, many of them older people.

* 954 have been waiting for neurology care for brain-related issues.

* 137 people with heart problems have been waiting the same length of time, despite the potential seriousness of their conditions.

* 432 and 108 people have been on waiting lists for four years for urology and kidney outpatient consultant appointments.

* Three cancer patients have also been on four-year-plus waiting lists for cancer care.


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