Audiology wait woes: Almost 20,000 on waiting lists at end of 2020

Audiology wait woes: Almost 20,000 on waiting lists at end of 2020

Cork Labour TD Seán Sherlock submitted questions to Stephen Donnelly, the health minister, on the issue in recent weeks and raised the issue in the Dáil. Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Concerns have been raised about the waiting lists for audiology services in Cork.

Cork Labour TD Seán Sherlock submitted questions to Stephen Donnelly, the health minister, on the issue in recent weeks and raised the issue in the Dáil.

Mr Sherlock said: “The number of patients under the age of 18 awaiting audiology treatment [nationally] in February 2021 was 9,486.

“Within that, the community healthcare organisation [CHO] with the highest number was CHO 4, covering Cork and Kerry, with 2,118 awaiting audiology follow-on services.”

Audiology is the branch of medicine that studies hearing, balance and related disorders, with audiologists treating those with hearing loss and proactively preventing related damage.

Nationally, 19,222 children and adults were on waiting lists for audiology services at the end of 2020. Almost 7,000 of these people had been waiting over a year for services, including 1,500 children under the age of five.

The data shows that Cork/Kerry was the worst-affected region, with more than 4,000 on its waiting list. Almost 1,500 of these were waiting more than a year, including 510 children under the age of five and 600 people over 65.

However, questions have been raised about the data, which failed to provide waiting list information for some areas in the CHOs.

In Cork/Kerry, for example, the HSE states the entire waiting list of more than 4,000 people of all age groups is situated in the South Lee area, with nobody on waiting lists in Kerry, North Cork, North Lee or West Cork. This situation is replicated in other CHOs.

Last month, a spokesperson for Cork Kerry Community Healthcare stated that audiology services were delivered from a centralised base in South Lee.

“The South Lee return is comprehensive of the total number waiting across Cork/Kerry and in that regard includes numbers waiting in Kerry.

“The number of adults waiting for an appointment is 2,001. The number of adults waiting in Kerry services is 459 of the total number of adults waiting in Cork/Kerry.

“At this time, service delivery and demand across Cork and Kerry areas is proportionate,” the spokesperson added.

However, Labour local area representative Peter Horgan echoed Mr Sherlock’s call for clarity and labelled the high waiting list in Cork as concerning.

“The large numbers awaiting audiology treatment in South Lee is concerning and especially when you see the numbers waiting more than 52 weeks, both at a very young age and for those aged over 65,” he said.

“Notwithstanding the restrictions under Covid, medical professionals have insisted that non-Covid interventions should not be put off.

“We need to see interventions to reduce waiting lists across the board,” he added.

“There needs to be a serious examination of waiting lists and what they represent in terms of the person awaiting treatment and where they reside,” he added.

When providing the 2020 figures to Mr Sherlock, the HSE’s interim head of operations for primary care and community operations, TJ Dunford, said that, in light of challenges posed by Covid-19 and the restrictions and advice implemented, “the HSE has had to reassess its operation of community therapy services nationally to ensure that the assessed needs of those clients with the highest priority are met.

“As a result of the national effort across all CHOs throughout the country, some aspects of normal monthly reporting have been delayed.

“The HSE is working to ensure timely access to children and adults requiring therapy services, and to reduce long waiting times for these important services,” added Mr Dunford.

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