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Tackling hospital waiting list ‘a real challenge’ – HSE official


Anton McNulty

A SENIOR officer with the HSE in the west of Ireland has accepted that it will be a challenge to meet waiting-list targets in light of Covid and the HSE cyber hack last May.
Ann Cosgrove, Chief Operations Officer with the Saolta Group of hospitals, made the comments after confirming that 7,500 outpatients are waiting for up to a year to see a consultant in Mayo University Hospital.
The figures were revealed in an answer to a question submitted by Cllr Michael Kilcoyne at last week’s Health Forum West meeting. Cllr Kilcoyne said he was alarmed by the numbers of outpatients waiting up to a year for their appointment. He also pointed out that a further 3,000 were waiting two years or more.
“This did not get bad during Covid – it has been bad for a good while,” he commented.
Scale v capacity
In response, Ms Cosgrove admitted that there was a ‘very significant’ outpatient waiting list across the Saolta Group.
“We have a lot of work to do over the next period to actually try and get as much access as possible for our patients. The outpatient waiting list has been very significant for the last number of years and it is not just to do to Covid,” she said, but added that the situation has been impacted by both Covid and the cyber attack.
“Nationally there is a huge issue for the health service in dealing with the waiting lists whether it is the inpatient, day case or outpatient [lists]. Outpatient [waiting lists] is a particular issue because of the volume of referrals to the hospital service, and that is right across the board. There is a national target to deal with the waiting list by year end of 2022, and [the] outpatients [target] will be a real challenge to achieve. Next year there will be a greater focus in relation to outpatients,” she said.
Ms Cosgrove added that one way they will try to tackle the waiting list problem is by ‘utilising access’ to a range of specialities in Mayo University Hospital introduced this year. These include specialities in orthopaedics, EMT, cardiology and gynaecology.
“We will be trying to utilise access in that way and any which way we can to try and see as many patients as possible. It is going to have to be a multifaceted approach because the scale is so significant versus the capacity available in the public system.”