29 Jun 2022

Waiting lists in North West will harm patients, warn consultants

Over 45,000 people waiting for assessment or treatment

Hospital waiting lists

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association has warned that the ongoing shortage of hospital consultants across a large number of specialties in the North West is restricting patients from accessing timely, high-quality medical and surgical care and is contributing massively to growing waiting lists.

Letterkenny University Hospital (LUH) and Sligo University Hospital (SUH) combined have more than 45,000 people currently on waiting lists for hospital treatment or an outpatient appointment with a Consultant. This is an increase of 12,300 people (37%) since 2015.

The number of patients awaiting inpatient or day case treatment at LUH and SUH has increased by 57% over the past seven years to 6,200, with a worrying five and six-fold increase respectively in the number waiting longer than a year for essential treatment.

Of the 37,200 people on outpatient waiting lists at both Letterkenny and Sligo Hospitals, a quarter (9,300) are waiting longer than 18 months – the HSE’s maximum wait time target due to be in place by the end of 2022.

The specialties with some of the longest outpatient waiting lists have also seen some of the largest increases over the past seven years:

Sligo University Hospital

Outpatient Waiting List April 2015 - 1,835
Outpatient Waiting List April 2022 - 3,405
Change +86%

Outpatient Waiting List April 2015 - 1,713
Outpatient Waiting List April 2022 - 2,500
Change +46%

Outpatient Waiting List April 2015 - 1,429
Outpatient Waiting List April 2022 - 1,967
Change +38%

General Medicine
Outpatient Waiting List April 2015 - 806
Outpatient Waiting List April 2022 - 1,756
Change +118%

In total, between April 2015 and April 2022, there have been an increase of 8,200 people in the outpatient waiting lists at the two hospitals, an increase of 28%. These waiting lists are likely to worsen in the coming months as more people who have put off seeking care during the pandemic need treatment.

The IHCA says the severe shortage of Consultants in our public hospitals is the main contributor to the unacceptable delays in providing care to patients at our public hospitals.

The consultant recruitment crisis in the North West is evident as one in three permanent Consultant posts at LUH are either vacant or filled on a temporary or agency basis, with one in four not filled as needed at SUH.

Furthermore, of the 23 advertised competitions that were completed by the Public Appointments Service but failed to be filled in 2021, a quarter (6 Consultant posts, or 26%) were at either LUH, SUH or in the North-West region of CHO1.

In fact, there were no applicants at all last year for the following Consultant posts:

  • Physician in Geriatric Medicine at SUH and Older Persons Services Sligo/Leitrim;
  • Clinical Neurophysiologist at SUH/UHG;
  • Two Child & Adolescent Psychiatrists in Sligo/Leitrim Mental Health Service (MHS);
  • Consultant in Old Age Psychiatry in Donegal West MHS.

In addition, a joint ENT Surgeon post for SUH and LUH remains unfilled despite three extensions to its deadline, while a Consultant Microbiologist post at Letterkenny remains unfilled even though it was advertised for over a year and extended seven times.

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