Close to 76,000 patients across the country are waiting for an orthopaedic outpatient appointment, with one-third or close to 26,000 waiting in the Munster region.
Figures furnished in the Dáil last week show that 18,566 patients were awaiting an orthopaedic outpatient appointment in the South / South West Hospital group in the month of August – the highest number across six hospital groups – while a further 7,054 waited for an appointment at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital in Limerick.
The waiting list figures further show that nationally more than 40% of patients were waiting over a year for an appointment and 14% were waiting more than two years for an orthopaedic outpatient appointment.
More up-to-date figures published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund show that the orthopaedic waiting list in the South / South West Hospital group has risen further to almost 19,000 in September.
The longest waiting lists are in the South Infirmary Victoria Hospital (7,471) and Waterford University Hospital (7,438), followed by Kerry University Hospital (3,386), Bantry (450) and Cork University Hospital (144), while numbers at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital, part of the University of Limerick Hospital group, increased to 7,095.
Other waiting list figures reveal that 2,655 patients nationally are waiting for a knee or hip replacement, with the national orthopaedic hospital in Dublin having the highest waiting list out of 17 hospitals carrying out these procedures.
The figures come as waiting lists across the health service have spiralled since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold in March causing elective procedures to be cancelled.
The health service faces several challenges as winter approaches, including reduced capacity due to Covid-19, running Covid and non-Covid services, and dealing with the current second wave of viral infections.
As of September, more than 750,000 patients across the country are waiting for an outpatient, day case, or inpatient appointment.
In response to a parliamentary question by Independent TD Denis Naughten on waiting lists, health minister Stephen Donnelly said the HSE was using alternative settings, including private hospitals and community facilities to “optimise productivity” and that the (NTPF) had also recommenced.
Deputy Naughten, however, said capacity across the entire health service should be used and suggested that regional hospitals have a role to play.
“Theatre space is at a premium at the moment and we need to use the full capacity of our hospitals in a better way to deal with the backlog that is there,” he added.