In May 2017, it was found that the waiting lists for public hospitals had reached an all time high, with 665,618 patients awaiting some form of medical care. The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has called for audits of more hospitals, in light of the findings of a recent report by the National Treatment Purchase Fund.
The original audit was commissioned by Minister Harris as a response to the RTÉ programme, ‘Living on the List’.
Results from 200 cases, across five hospitals in the country showed that there were extremely long delays in waiting lists. In many cases, consultants have placed patients directly on waiting lists, completely bypassing the outpatient service. Findings of the report also indicated that patients have been retrospectively placed on hospital waiting lists.
Reasons for the long delays in waiting lists include the knock-on effects of the trolley crisis which ensued after Christmas of last year, resulting in the cancellation of many scheduled procedures. Shortages in hospital staff, poor hospital management and the number of patients who are deemed fit to leave but remain in hospitals are also contributing factors to the increasing waiting lists.
This issue has also been raised on the Pat Kenny Show earlier this year. On the show, in October of this year, a man said that his wife had to wait over seven months for a colonoscopy surgery. In the time that she had been waiting for the procedure, the cancer that she was being treated for had spread and she passed away.
He said that in the ten years since her death, people are still waiting for more than a year for similar surgeries. He states the reason for this is that the funding has not been adequately distributed in terms of staffing.
“[w]e had an endoscopy unit opened in [her] name, which is brilliant. I thought it would get rid of the waiting lists. Then I found out afterwards that one of the two endoscopy rooms wasn’t in use because it wasn’t staffed.”
Another woman speaking on the show explains the serious impact that hospital waiting lists has had on her life, after waiting nearly three years for a life-changing surgery. She stated:
“Since then, I have no life, I’m barely able to get out of bed. I have no social life. I can’t go out with my friends. I literally can’t do anything.”