Almost every hospital in the country was told by the Health Service Executive to expect fewer outpatient attendances this year but the latest progress report presented to HSE bosses shows visits to outpatient departments are running at 18% above target.
The figures also show the number of day case procedures to be 9.2% over what was anticipated and that waiting times for appointments with many consultants are far longer than the target of three months or less.
Patients are waiting on average six months at the 10 biggest acute hospitals and up to 18 months if they need to see a specialist for an ENT (ear, nose, throat) or head and neck problem.
Those hospitals are Cork University, Waterford Regional, UCH Galway, Limerick Regional and Beaumont, Connolly, the Mater, St James’s, St Vincent’s and Tallaght in Dublin. Smaller general hospitals “exhibited slightly longer waits”.
Another HSE target to take a beating is the goal to have no adult waiting more than six months for inpatient treatment and no child more than three months. Figures to the end of April this year show that in-patient activity is 2.8% higher that planned and: “Compared to service plan targets, 27% of adults and 57% of children were waiting more than six and three months.”
The report, which shows the hospital sector running 46.1 million over budget by the end of April, also records attendances at accident and emergency departments to be 3% over target.
The detailed progress report, compiled under the HealthStat initiative, is the first of its kind to be presented to the HSE board in an exercise which is now to be repeated monthly.
A HSE spokesman said it would help in improving target times in future because there would be precise, up-to-date information about where problems lay.
On waiting times for outpatient appointments at the main hospitals, he said that three of the ten facilities had managed to meet their target times. “It shows the targets are not impossible but that work needs to be done in some hospitals to bring them into line.”