Health Minister Simon Harris is to visit Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) to hear directly from doctors who have warned they can no longer take responsibility for the health of thousands of women on gynaecological waiting lists.
Under sustained pressure in the Dáil, Mr Harris said he would travel to Cork as soon as the HSE provided him with a report on waiting times and how they intended to tackle them. There are almost 4,200 women awaiting outpatient appointments, of whom close to 800 are waiting more than a year-and-a-half.
“I’m visiting it because I want to meet with the clinicians who I have read have a number of views in relation to measures which should be undertaken. And I want to hear directly from those clinicians so I will make arrangements to do so as quickly as possible,” he said.
Mr Harris’s surprise announcement followed pressure from Fianna Fáil TDs Aindrias Moynihan and Billy Kelleher, both of whom raised the spectre of cancers going undiagnosed and untreated as women waited to be seen. Mr Moynihan said he had to call an ambulance for one of his constituents “that I came upon thrown in the bathroom in a puddle of blood”.
“She was on the waiting list for over a year and was back and forth to the emergency department,” he said.
Billy Kelleher, who tabled a question on behalf of his colleague, Michael McGrath, said there needed to be a “co-ordinated response to dealing with inordinate delays in accessing what are vital services”.
Earlier in the day, the crisis at CUMH had been raised in the Seanad where Independent senator Catherine Kelleher expressed disappointment that Mr Harris had not followed up on a commitment to tackle the “unacceptable” waiting times for women.
She said that commitment had been given at a joint health committee last September. Fine Gael senator Colm Burke said he too was “extremely disappointed”.
However, by yesterday evening, the minister said he would be paying a visit to the hospital once the HSE has supplied him with a report on the waiting lists and their proposals to tackle them.
“I am concerned with what I have been reading … and I do intend to visit in the coming weeks to speak directly with management and consultants,” he said.
Earlier this week, the Irish Examiner revealed up to 20 consultants at CUMH, in an unprecedented step, had written to their chief executive Tony McNamara to warn they would no longer take responsibility for the women whose health had deteriorated after excessive waits for treatment.
The consultants have repeatedly told hospital management of the need to invest in the service.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved