60,000 waiting for outpatient appointments: Cork consultant warns 'waiting list initiative will constantly be battling Covid-19' 

60,000 waiting for outpatient appointments: Cork consultant warns 'waiting list initiative will constantly be battling Covid-19' 

The ongoing battle with Covid-19 will make it difficult for hospitals across Cork and Ireland to tackle waiting lists, a consultant has warned.

TENS of thousands of people are waiting for outpatient appointments in Cork hospitals — but the ongoing battle with Covid-19 will make it difficult for hospitals across Cork and Ireland to tackle waiting lists, a consultant has warned.

More than 60,000 patients are on waiting lists for hospital appointments in Cork.

These numbers include almost 15,000 people who have been waiting more than 18 months, new figures show.

New data from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) revealed that 63,560 patients are on waiting lists across six Cork hospitals.

Cork University Hospital (CUH) has the highest number of people on its waiting list with 28,431 people awaiting appointments.

South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital (SIVUH) is in second place with 23,333 on its waiting lists.

The figures also show that almost 15,000 people have been waiting for appointments in Cork hospitals for more than 18 months.

This includes almost 8,000 at SIVUH and more than 5,000 at CUH.

Speaking to The Echo, consultant in emergency medicine, Dr Chris Luke, warned that Covid-19 could be around for years to come, and that this will negatively impact waiting lists going forward.

Dr Luke explained that the coronavirus is behaving in a similar pattern to that of the Spanish Flu, a virus that remained prevalent for a number of years following 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 that all the precautions, from wearing personal protective equipment to hand hygiene and social distancing, will have to continue.

“That means there will be tension between elective procedures, surgeries, and clinic appointments and trying to be ready for the next surge. The waiting list initiative will constantly be battling with Covid-19 in terms of priorities.

“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,” said Dr Luke.

“Hospital staff are battling away, and it certainly won’t be for a lack of desire to get waiting lists down — Covid-19 will just make the situation very difficult.”

The South/South West Hospital Group was contacted for comment.

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