CORK TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has called on the Government to take action over the backlog in gynaecological appointments, which he labelled as "astonishingly dangerous".
Figures obtained by Sinn Féin following a parliamentary question revealed that, as of the end of January, 1,234 women were on the waiting list for a gynaecological appointment in Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH).
The waiting list figures were provided by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).
"Of these, 278 (22.5%) have been waiting longer than six months, and 62 (5%) have been waiting for longer than a year.
"The average waiting time in CUMH in 2020 was 331 days, nearly double the length of the wait two years’ prior.
"This is beyond concerning and is astonishingly dangerous.
"At a time when we have the breast check backlog, the cervical smear test backlog and recruitment concerns, women need assurance that their health needs will be met," Deputy Ó Laoghaire said.
"Most of these delays, but not all, were caused by the curtailment of services due to Covid.
"This is understandably unavoidable to a certain extent, but as I’ve stated previously, we have a perfect storm brewing for a crisis in women’s health which has been exacerbated by a failure to invest and this further adds to the risk," he continued.
In his response to the Sinn Féin parliamentary question, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said at all times, "patient safety remains at the forefront of the HSE decision to defer elective scheduled care activity".
"The HSE continues to identify ways to improve access to care for example through modified pathways to care in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the use of private hospitals, community facilities and atypical outpatient settings," he said.
Mr Ó Laoghaire has urged the Minister to "take urgent steps now to give the HSE the resources, investment and support required to ensure this backlog is cleared".
"We are approaching International Women’s Day and we will hear a lot of people praising the women in their lives, the achievements of women throughout our country and its history and rightly so.
"However, this will all ring hollow if we continue to ignore the serious shortfalls in their healthcare."