A TOTAL of 2,119 patients have been left waiting for neurosurgery at CUH in a situation Epilepsy Ireland has described as “extremely disappointing”.
Of that number, 188 people have been experiencing delays of between 12 and 15 months for operations.
Some 386 have been waiting between nine and 12 months for surgery, while 485 have been on the waiting list for operations for between six and nine months.
The recent figures were revealed in response to a parliamentary question from Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath. Epilepsy Ireland described the devastating effect neurosurgery delays are having on many of a number of its service users.
“For people with certain types of epilepsy, surgery is often a last resort to achieve seizure freedom and comes as a result of them not responding to their prescribed medications,” Community Resource Officer, Niamh Jones from Epilepsy Ireland’s Cork office said. “Even for people who live with regular debilitating seizures, the decision to go for surgery is one that is not taken lightly as the procedures involved are highly invasive. These include the removal of part of the brain from which the seizures originate.
“Added to that is the risk that because epilepsy is such an individual condition, even if a person is a suitable candidate for surgery, there is no guarantee that they will see the desired results.”
She stressed that the decision for an epilepsy sufferer to pursue surgery is not taken lightly.
“Arriving at a decision to have surgery is difficult enough for people with epilepsy. However, they are then faced with huge waiting lists as the figures show. Through the time they remain on the waiting list, they face the ongoing battles of life with uncontrolled seizures which can make living normal day to day life almost impossible.
“They also have the stress of the upcoming surgery itself, which in itself can bring on further seizures. In short, time is of the essence, and the sooner people can access surgery once the decision has been made the better.”
Epilepsy Ireland say neurological services need to be further invested in to improve the lives of epilepsy sufferers.
“Many people with epilepsy currently on the waiting list could be living their lives seizure-free or with significantly reduced seizures if neurosurgical services were better invested in,” Ms Jones said. “Instead, they are languishing on waiting lists.
“The figures revealed are extremely disappointing but not surprising as this is an issue that has come up time and time again by people who use Epilepsy Ireland’s services.”
In a written response to the parliamentary question, Minister for Health, Simon Harris insisted that hospital operations and procedures are a prime concern.
“Reducing waiting time for patients for hospital operations and procedures is a key priority for Government,” he said. “The Government is committed to improving waiting times for hospital appointments and procedures. Budget 2020 announced that the Government has further increased investment in tackling waiting lists, with funding to the NTPF increasing from €75 million in 2019 to €100 million in 2020.”
Mr Harris also said his department is working with the HSE and National Treatment Purchase Fund to develop the Scheduled Care Access Plan 2020.
“The National Service Plan 2020 will set out HSE planned activity level for the year ahead, while the NTPF will work with the hospital system to provide additionality to improve access to inpatient/daycase treatment and with a particular focus on hospital outpatient services,” he said.