Almost 120,000 outpatient appointments and 13,000 inpatient appointments were cancelled in hospitals across the University of Limerick (UL) Hospital Group over a two-year period.
The UL Hospital Group is made up of six hospital sites in the Midwest; University Hospital Limerick (UHL), University Maternity Hospital Limerick (UMHL), Ennis Hospital, Nenagh Hospital, Croom Orthopaedic Hospital and St John's Hospital Limerick.
Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that 119,648 outpatient appointments and 12,923 inpatient appointments were cancelled across the hospital group in 2020 and 2021, as the health service combatted the Covid-19 pandemic.
UHL saw the highest number of inpatient cancellations (6,830) and outpatient cancellations (75,302) across the hospital group in 2020 and 2021, documents show. The maternity hospital saw 11,330 outpatient appointments cancelled during the same period.
Some 11,171 outpatient appointments and 2,005 inpatient appointments were cancelled at Nenagh Hospital in 2020 and 2021, along with more than 10,000 outpatient appointments and around 1,4000 inpatient appointments at Ennis Hospital.
St John’s saw 5,536 outpatient cancellations and 2,250 inpatient cancellations over the two years, while 6,088 outpatient appointments and 376 inpatient appointments were cancelled at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital during that timeframe.
March 2020 saw the highest number of outpatient appointment cancellations over the two-year period, with 13,134 cancellations across the hospital group.
Some 41,670 of the 119,648 outpatient appointments - a third of all outpatient appointments - were cancelled during the two-year period due to “Covid-19 precautions”. The cancellation reason was not specified or described as “other” for around 47,000 appointments.
Around 7,700 were cancelled due to the patient being unavailable, 2,300 because the patient was ill and around 1,800 because they were deceased. In six cases, outpatient appointments were cancelled because the patient was “incorrectly flagged as deceased.
January and February 2020 saw the highest number of inpatient appointment cancellations over the two-year period with more than 2,000 cancellations across the hospital group during the first two months of the year.
Around half of the 12,923 cancellations were the result of decisions from a consultant or team at the hospitals. Around 5,600 were cancelled by a patient or their guardian.
Meanwhile, almost 600 appointments were cancelled as the hospital had “no bed” for the patient in question.
Limerick Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan described the cancellation figures as “shocking” but not surprising.
“While Covid-19 exacerbated the length of the waiting lists, fundamental reforms have long been due,” he said. “Many people were on long waiting lists long before Covid arrived on our shores.
A spokesperson for the hospital group said the pandemic caused “significant disruption to health services” and resulted in the reduction of scheduled care in line with the national response.
“The ebb and flow of Covid-19 surges have been disruptive and difficult to manage, and we apologise to all who have been affected,” they stated.