‘Con job’ as 8,000 patients axed off waiting lists for Cork hospitals

‘Con job’ as 8,000 patients axed off waiting lists for Cork hospitals
Dr. Nick Flynn

AROUND 8,000 patients were removed from hospital waiting lists in Cork over an 18-month period because they failed to respond to a validation letter.

Validation letters are sent to patients asking if they still need their appointment with the HSE, requesting a response within seven days.

However, the practice of removing patients who have, in some cases, been waiting more than a year for an appointment, has been condemned as a “con job”.

Cork GP Dr Nick Flynn said: “They’re removing these patients without knowing if it’s actually safe to remove them.

“That’s a completely blind removal.

“Then they spin it by saying there are 8,000 less people waiting for treatment, which is totally misleading,” he added.

“It’s purely a PR exercise, nothing more. It’s a con job.”

Dr Flynn said the figures were creating an impression that waiting lists were going down.

“It’s designed to create this false sense of reassurance among the public that the health services are actually working,” he said.

“It’s the exact opposite of what the health service should be striving to do, which is putting the patient in the centre and making it easy for them. Instead, they’re making it hard for the patient.

“The thousands of patients that are being blindly removed will now have to go back to their GPs which leads to 8,000 extra consultations, 8,000 extra letters, 8,000 extra administrative processes in the hospital departments to get patients back on waiting lists. It’s ludicrous.”

Patients were removed in fields such as orthopaedics, dermatology, pain relief, and plastic surgery.

“Some of these would have two- or three-year waiting times for services at least,” said Dr Flynn.

“These patients are waiting for around two years, they miss a validation letter, and they are taken off the waiting list. “It’s a cruel thing.”

In an 18-month period, from January 2017 to June 2018, the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital saw the highest number of removals, with almost 4,500 removed for failing to respond to a validation letter.

Cork University Hospital removed more than 3,500 people from its outpatient and day case waiting lists in the same period, while Mallow General Hospital saw almost 500 removals.

The South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital sent out almost 30,000 validation letters between January 2017 and June 2018, CUH sent around 21,000, the Mercy sent almost 3,000, CUMH sent just over 2,000 and Bantry General Hospital sent almost 400.

Separate figures, for a seven-month period, obtained by The Echo, revealed that 11,800 patients were removed from hospital waiting lists in the entire south-west region, between December 2017 and July 2018 out of 55,640; a removal rate of 21.2%.

More than 8,500 (73%) of these were removed for failing to respond to a validation letter, including almost 3,300 (28%) in Cork hospitals.

The HSE introduced the validation letters to reduce the number of ‘no-shows’.

It has previously said that almost half a million people did not attend their outpatient appointments in 2017 and that others could have used these slots.

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