WAITING lists for outpatient appointments in Cork hospitals increased by almost 2,000 patients in the space of a month, it has been revealed.
Some 65,288 people were on waiting lists for outpatient appointments at hospitals across Cork at the end of August, according to data from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).
It is an increase of over 1,700 on the month before, when around 63,500 people were awaiting appointments.
Some 15,594 patients are waiting more than 18 months for their appointment, a slight increase on the previous month.
The outpatient waiting list at Cork University Hospital (CUH) rose by more than 800 between the end of July and the end of August, rising from 28,431 patients to 29,239.
More than 5,700 patients have been waiting for more than 18 months for their CUH appointment.
Meanwhile, some 23,800 patients are on the outpatient waiting list South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital (SIVUH) — more than 8,000 have been waiting for more than 18 months.
Sinn Féin TD Thomas Gould labelled the waiting lists as “scandalous”.
“For too long now, successive governments have underfunded our health service and this is the unfortunate result of these decisions,” he said.
“It is disgraceful that people are waiting this long for vital treatment and therapy.
“Hospital outpatient waiting lists are now at their longest since records began. We need a real plan to put an end to this.”
Speaking to The Echo recently about the NTPF waiting lists in Cork, Dr Chris Luke, a veteran consultant in emergency medicine, explained that the ongoing battle against Covid-19 will make it difficult for hospitals to tackle waiting lists for outpatient appointments.
Dr Luke explained that the coronavirus is behaving in a similar pattern to the 1918 flu pandemic, a virus that persisted for a number of years after the first outbreak.
“The truth is I think we will be contending with Covid-19 for at least three years,” he said.
“I don’t see a vaccine being widely available for 18 to 24 months — I would be very surprised if it is available in the next 12 to 18 months.
“That means there will be tension between elective procedures, surgeries, and clinic appointments and trying to be ready for the next surge.
“I cannot see the waiting lists being tackled as vigorously as they need to be tackled for another year or so simply because we’re battling with Covid.
“Hospital staff are battling away and it certainly won’t be for a lack of desire to get waiting lists down — Covid will just make the situation very difficult.”