Outpatients failing to show ‘is adding to waiting lists’

The non-attendance of about 35,000 outpatients for appointments in two Galway public hospitals last year has contributed to the largest waiting list in the country.

A reported 40,517 outpatients are waiting to be seen by consultants after GP referrals to University College Hospital Galway and Merlin Park, Galway.

The HSE’s Forum West chairman, Padraig Conneely has claimed some people are waiting five or six years to receive an outpatient appointment in Galway.

“I am getting horrific stories about people waiting for years for procedures. How much more pain and suffering will these patients have to endure?”

He also pointed to hospitals elsewhere: 18,785 outpatients in Tallaght; 15,117 in Waterford Regional Hospital; 13,831 in Beaumont Hospital; 12,387 in Cork University Hospital; 11,228 in the Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore; 9,941 in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin; 8,592 in Letterkenny General Hospital; 7,323 in Our Lady of Lourdes, Drogheda; 6,953 in Sligo General Hospital and 6,459 in Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown.

Galway and Roscommon University Hospitals’ Group chief executive Bill Maher estimates the “unvalidated” outpatient figures in Galway hospitals could reduce by between 10% and 15% when the number of patients on multiple lists for the same procedures are removed from the system.

It is estimated Galway University Hospitals handle 5,000 outpatients every week.

However, Mr Maher has pointed out their overall outpatient waiting list would be much lower if patients turned up for all of their appointments.

The new chief is determined to tackle the “new to review rate” ratio for public patients amid concern some patients have been seen for follow-up appointments seven or eight times — a ratio he finds “inappropriate”.

Mr Maher said the HSE needed to bring waiting times as close as possible to the expected national target of 12 months initially and then concentrate on reducing this further on a phased basis.

He said the main priority was to identify the patients with the longest waiting times, treat them and get them off the list. “The real issue is not the total amount of patients on the list but the length of time these patients are waiting.

“As part of the action plan, we are going to write to patients and offer them a realistic appointment date and see if they still need the treatment,” he said.

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