Cork University Maternity Hospital consultants urge Simon Harris to deliver on funds

Health Minister Simon Harris

Consultants at Cork University Maternity Hospital have called on Health Minister Simon Harris to deliver on funding promised to tackle massive gynaecology waiting lists as a quid pro quo for the work they have done to reduce waiting times.

Consultant obstetrician/gynaecologist Cathy Burke said the number of women waiting more than 18 months for an outpatient appointment had reduced by one third, down from 1,013 in April to 693 by the end of August. The overall waiting figure is 4,292, down from 4,667 last April.

“We’ve been working hard running additional gynae clinics over the summer and we will do so until the end of the year in an effort to eliminate the outpatient waiting list over 18 months as we promised when we met the minister in March.

“Our initiatives are being undertaken in good faith and on the understanding that the minister will keep his end of the bargain,” said Dr Burke.

In March, Mr Harris, who described the waiting lists as “not acceptable”, committed to a €14m investment over three years, including a €7.5m capital investment and €6.5m in running costs.

Dr Burke said they had requested €2.7m for 2018 “to provide for two additional consultant obstetrician/gynaecologist posts, the opening of the second gynaecology theatre, opening of the Gynaecology Day Unit and the provision of a pre-operative assessment service for all patients”.

A spokesperson for Mr Harris said the department “is not in a position to comment on funding issues for 2018 while the budgetary process is ongoing”.

Dr Burke said they expected the funding target to be met “given the level of effort that has been put in at our end and the minister’s unequivocal agreement to honour the terms of our business plan”.

Dr Burke said doctors had been working on reducing the inpatient waiting times as well “through access to additional theatre lists, which she said “has not been as easy to achieve”.

She said they were “still working at only 30% of maximum capacity in our gynae theatres”.

Nationally, the number of women on waiting lists for outpatient gynae appointments stood at more than 28,000 at the end of August, of whom 1,831 were waiting more than 18 months.

The number of inpatients/day cases stood at 4078, of whom 165 were waiting 18 months.

Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin said waiting longer than is absolutely necessary “can often lead to a reduction in the quality of life experienced by women”.

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