Urgent cases seen 'quickly' at A&E

Sat, Sep 22, 2012, 01:00

PATIENTS WHO present urgently at hospitals through outpatients or emergency departments are seen “reasonably quickly” despite long waiting lists, according to the head of the Health Service Executive.

Director general designate Tony O’Brien said the high numbers on outpatient waiting lists, 340,000 around the country, had been predicted by the Department of Health’s special delivery unit earlier this year.

People may have had the impression numbers on outpatient waiting lists had “climbed dramatically” in the last few months following the release of figures yesterday, but this was not the case, he said. Numbers had risen because more hospitals had been included in the waiting list figures.

Until earlier this year, the HSE had not published figures for those waiting for first appointments with hospital consultants in outpatient departments. Since they began publishing the figures, they have been steadily growing as each hospital was included in the count.

The Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Dooradoyle, Co Limerick, had the largest number of people waiting for outpatient appointments for over four years at 4,869.

This is followed closely by another Limerick hospital, the Mid-Western Regional Orthopaedic in Croom, which had 4,860 people waiting more than four years. At Waterford Regional Hospital the figure was 4,200.

The hospitals with the largest numbers waiting over 12 months were University College Hospital Galway with just over 21,000, Waterford Regional with just under 21,000 and Dooradoyle, with more than 14,200.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland yesterday, Mr O’Brien said that while 340,000 people waiting was “way too many” he was “very confident” that where referrals indicated urgency those patients were being seen urgently.

The aim now was to ensure non-urgent cases would be seen in chronological order and “never again wait for indeterminate lengths of time”.

“We have had dramatic reductions in the number of people waiting for more than 12 months,” he said. “People attending at emergency departments this year, while there is still significant room for improvement, are having a much better experience by and large than what happened before.”