The number of patients on waiting lists for day case treatment has increased by 19,000 in the first two months of the Covid-19 crisis.
That’s according to new figures published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) on Friday.
Before the public health emergency took hold, waiting list data collated by the NTPF showed that 67,000 patients were waiting for day case elective treatment at the end of February.
The latest figures show this number has increased to 86,000 patients by the end of April, as hospitals focused on dealing with the Covid-19 emergency, cancelling many elective procedures and treatments.
The number of patients waiting for an endoscopy has also increased, from 23,000 at the end of February to 34,000 at the end of April, the NTPF data shows.
The fund was established by the Minister for Health to deal with waiting lists and treat patients faster by outsourcing treatment and using private hospitals.
The figures come as HSE chief executive Paul Reid confirmed this week that private hospitals will be used to help clear NTPF waiting lists.
Mr Reid told RTÉ's News at One on Thursday that the NTPF mechanism could be used for procedures for the duration of an agreement to take over private hospitals during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Under the deal the HSE temporarily took over 19 private hospitals to boost capacity of the health service at a cost of €115 m/ month.
The deal has come under scrutiny as figures emerged this week suggesting that the private hospitals were operating at around one third of their capacity.
On Thursday Fianna Fail spokesperson on health Deputy Stephen Donnelly questioned Health Minister Simon Harris on the private hospital deal in the Dáil.
Deputy Donnelly questioned the value of treating 5,000 patients currently on NTPF waiting lists under the existing private hospital deal and pointed out that the NTPF procured 21,000 procedures for just €50 million in 2018.
Meanwhile the Irish Hospital Consultants Association has sought an urgent review of the private hospital deal, which it says represents “poor value for money” for patients and taxpayers.