The waiting list for vital operations in the health service has grown by more than 10,000 since the end of 2019, due to the impact of Covid-19 and the ransomware attack on the Health Service Executive, a top official has revealed.
Citing data that has not yet been published due to the hack, Liam Woods, HSE national director for acute operations, said the waiting list for inpatient and day procedures had grown to 77,000 from 66,563 at the end of 2019.
The pandemic and hack reversed progress in bringing that number down, despite extra resources being pumped into health, he said.
“That’s been growing in an environment where we were resourced to bring it down if Covid hadn’t happened and [the hack] hadn’t happened.
“You’re looking at a major multiannual programme to get back at that.”
Numbers on that list had been dropping by about 10,000 a year, meaning it could have fallen to about 40,000 this year. “There were actually gradual improvements coming, but that’s been seriously disrupted,” he said.
Official figures show there were 630,270 people on the outpatient waiting list for appointments as of last May.
The HSE would add 1,100 beds in acute hospitals this year, and had been given a budget to add 3,500 community staff, but it was likely to be the end of next year before those posts were filled, Mr Woods said.
While the impact of the hack will play out until the end of the year, many major systems are back on stream. Most significant systems involving day-to-day care are back online and “major impacts have been recovered”.
The attack caused “between three and five weeks’ disruption to core acute hospital services”, and then had ongoing effects in particular areas. “Most of the big issues and, in fact, a lot of the smaller ones have now been tidied up,” he said, but there remain “outlying areas”.
Covid-19 cases on Wednesday continued to trend upwards, with 1,819 new cases reported in the State. Some 206 Covid patients were hospitalised, including 36 in ICU. Over 78 per cent of adults are fully vaccinated and 89 per cent have received at least one dose.
Meanwhile, Dr Ronan Glynn, deputy chief medical officer at the Department of Health, has responded to what he called “increased commentary, both nationally and internationally, relating to infections in people who have been fully vaccinated”.
Dr Glynn said: “As vaccination rates increase, there will be more vaccinated and fewer unvaccinated people in the population. As a result, the proportion of cases in vaccinated people will increase.”
He stressed “vaccines work” and they provided approximately 95 per cent protection against hospitalisation.
Registration for vaccination of 12-15 year olds opens on Thursday.