Patients in Munster hospitals continue to face months of waiting for many treatments, despite significant funding investment over the last year, analysis shows.
Earlier this year, €350m was dedicated to waiting lists, following a plan targeting lists from September to December 2021.
Analysis of the figures shows that people waiting for outpatient care, or their first appointment at a hospital, are seeing the impact of this funding more so than people waiting for care requiring an overnight stay in hospital.
The number of people waiting on inpatient lists increased from 68,102 in August 2021 to 79,280 in August 2022, according to the National Treatment Purchase Fund.
At Cork University Hospital, lists grew from 1,118 people in August last year to 1,557 this year, including numbers waiting more than 18 months increasing from 249 to 271 now.
At University Hospital Waterford (UHW), lists increased from 3,951 last year to 4,932 this year.
At University Hospital Limerick (UHL), there were 1,769 waiting, rising to 2,040 by the end of August this year.
Ophthalmology waiting lists across all HSE hospitals, including for cataracts, increased from 7,788 last year to 8,861.
Among these people are 571 who have been waiting more than 18 months, despite funding to send people abroad helping to reduce this from a total of 993.
Gynaecology lists across all Munster hospitals now have 5,425 women waiting, an increase on 5,383 last year.
This year’s figure includes 1,174 who have been waiting six to nine months, and 405 waiting over 18 months, the latter down from 942.
Last August, there were 12,334 waiting for general surgery across all hospitals, this is now 12,920. Numbers waiting 12 to 18 months changed little, although the number of longest waiters has dropped by almost 600 to 1,507.
Separate figures provided by the Department of Health, however, show that the numbers waiting for some outpatient specialities in some hospitals are reducing.
In UHW, long lists for ear, nose, and throat (ENT) treatment have been reduced by 40% or 4,589 people.
This hospital reduced overall outpatient waiting lists by 9,780 people or 21%. Numbers waiting more than one year reduced by 11,313 people or 48%.
UHL reduced its overall outpatient list by 12%, or 7,230 people, the department said.
This includes decreasing the numbers waiting over 12 months by 30% or 9,308 people, still leaving many waiting.
Some 1,079 people have been seen from its dermatology waiting list, which can include patients with eczema and skin cancer.
These drops in numbers waiting can result from virtual clinics, patients being sent for funded treatment elsewhere, and improved recruitment.
Hospitals regularly ask patients if they still need care; if they have gone elsewhere, or do not respond, they are removed from the lists.
Responding to the figures, the Irish Patients Association's Stephen McMahon said: “It is good to see some progress, but in the broad scheme of things progress is glacial compared to the size of the problems for patients.”
He urged people waiting to consider the option of treatment abroad, and said doctors should discuss this more openly.
“It’s not the numbers on the list, it’s the length of time people are waiting, which is more important in terms of deterioration and their condition worsening,” he said.