The number of people on public waiting lists for outpatients has climbed to its highest level this year at 627,856 people experiencing delays in seeing a specialist.
It means a further 2,343 patients have been queued since January, despite the government’s €350million waiting list plan.
Progress has been made in reducing the number of people who waited the longest on the outpatient list, over 18 months.
The numbers have fallen from 155,478 at the start of the year to 127,546 last month.
The number of patients requiring surgery fluctuated throughout the year but is now back at 79,588, compared to 77,818 in January.
However, there has been some interference with those who wait the longest. This is down from 10,914 in January to 9,331 last month.
The impact of Covid-19, the influx of patients through emergency rooms, a shortage of specialist doctors and beds are also preventing much progress from being made despite the heavy investments.
Hospitals face another winter of Covid-19 and a possible flu outbreak that could seriously lengthen waiting lists.
The figures also show how the HSE is behind on its plans for additional acute hospital beds, which are vital to accommodate patients on trolleys in crowded emergency departments and provide space for those on waiting lists who need to be admitted.
By this month, 941 additional acute hospital beds should have been delivered, but the hospitals are still missing 45.
Hospitals still awaiting all of the additional hospital beds envisaged for last year are Beaumont Hospital, Temple St Hospital, Letterkenny Hospital, Mater Hospital, South Tipperary General Hospital, St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny and Mercy Hospital in Cork .
dr Fergal Hickey, of the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine, said emergency departments are “working harder and harder to address deficiencies elsewhere in the healthcare system, which is not their role”.
“While emergency medicine accepts that emergency rooms are the safety net for patients, they should not be the safety net for failing medical services,” he said.
“Emergency Departments are trying to cope with this onslaught given the significant shortage of medical, nursing and other staff.
“While some of this is related to Covid, more and more employees are leaving the company as they feel they cannot continue working in such an impossible and dangerous environment.”
dr Hickey said flow becomes impossible in both hospitals and emergency rooms when hospital bed or emergency room occupancy exceeds 85 percent.
Health Secretary Stephen Donnelly has said he would like the appointment of 50 emergency advisers to be speeded up, but there is skepticism about where they will be found and doctors are warning their impact will be limited without changes to the current hospital system.
In particular, there is a need to ensure 24/7 access to diagnostics to avoid patients occupying beds unnecessarily, and also more efficient discharge of patients into the community.
Yesterday morning 463 patients were waiting on trolleys for a bed, including 43 at St Vincent’s Hospital and 51 at Cork University Hospital.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/health/627856-waiting-to-see-specialist-in-public-health-service-the-highest-number-this-year-41932986.html 627,856 specialists in the public health service – the highest number this year