Patients wait 600 days to see consultant

PATIENTS are waiting up to 600 days to see a consultant at outpatient clinics in some hospitals around the country, according to the Health Service Executive performance information system HealthStat.

The specialities with the longest waiting times include orthopaedics (disorders of the bones and joints); otolaryngology (or ENT — ear, nose, neck and throat disorders); and general surgery.

The hospitals with the longest waiting times include Tallaght Hospital, Cavan General, Kerry General, Louth, and Portlaoise, where the average waiting time for orthopaedic patients is 600 days.

At Tullamore, there is a 550-day average wait for access to ENT outpatients.

Excessive waiting times are not confined to outpatients. Access to routine diagnostic tests such as ultrasounds, MRIs or CT scans is also widespread.

At Beaumont Hospital and University College Hospital Galway (UCHG), the average delay between being referred by a consultant for a routine MRI and actually receiving the MRI is 200 days. Patients referred by their GP for routine ultrasounds at Mayo General face delays of up to 200 days for an MRI and 150 days for an ultrasound.

There are similar waits for routine ultrasounds at Limerick Regional, South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital in Cork, St Luke’s in Kilkenny and UCHG.

The HSE target is that patients should not wait more than 70 days for these routine diagnostic tests.

The issue of patients who do secure appointments failing to show up at outpatient clinics continues to plague the health service.

Paediatric patients make up the largest cohort of no-shows, with 30% of children failing to show for their outpatient appointments at Kerry General.

The HealthStat report cards also show not one out of 29 hospitals managed to stay in budget last month.

As many as 16 hospitals breached their staff ceiling. Absenteeism was rife — 14 hospitals failed to stay within the HSE target of not losing more than 3.5% of staff hours due to absenteeism.

All 29 hospitals had a certain number of delayed discharges, particularly the Dublin teaching hospitals where the discharge of one in five patients was delayed at Beaumont, Connolly, the Mater, St James’s and St Columcille’s.

More than half the hospitals failed to admit patients from the emergency department within six hours.

Most hospitals adhered to the requirement not to devote more than 20% of their time to private activity.

None of the 29 hospitals was given an overall “green” for good in the June Healthstat figures based on an analysis of performance across up to 20 categories.

However, Kerry General, Tullamore, St Vincent’s University Hospital and Wexford Regional all scored the highest number of greens, at 10 out of 20.

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