More than 80,000 people were waiting for appointments or inpatient procedures at hospitals in Cork at the end of last month, with one Cork GP saying while the events of 2021 had put hospitals in an "impossible situation", efforts were needed to tackle the issue.
According to the latest figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund, 80,819 people were waiting on inpatient and outpatient treatment in either Cork University Hospital, Cork University Maternity Hospital, Bantry General Hospital, Mallow General Hospital, Mercy University Hospital or South Infirmary-Victoria University Hospital last month.
A breakdown of the figures show 66,647 adults were waiting for an outpatient appointment at a Cork hospital in November, with 19,575 waiting more than 18 months.
Additionally, over 8,000 children (8,067) were waiting for an appointment and 1,573 had been waiting more than 18 months.
According to the data, 5,740 adults were waiting for inpatient treatment in Cork in November, in addition to 362 children.
Of those patients, 803 adults and 29 children had been waiting more than 18 months for treatment.
In total, nearly 712,500 people (712,435) were waiting on treatment nationally.
Cork GP and former Lord Mayor Dr John Sheehan said that the events of this year had put hospitals in an “impossible situation”.
“It’s always a challenge but I think this year Covid-19 and the ransomware attack really had a big impact in terms of waiting lists,” Dr Sheehan told The Echo.
“It really impacted the ability for hospitals to not only give their normal services but it also impacted their ability to do any extra initiatives that sometimes occur to reduce waiting lists.
“Unfortunately, the figures aren’t surprising but it’s something that we’re going to have to start addressing because as our population increases and as we all live a bit longer, our need for healthcare is going to be higher and higher.
“We need to really look at how we’re going to structure that system.”
Dr Sheehan said that the new elective hospital planned for Cork, which was approved by Cabinet last week, will be important in tackling waiting lists.
The new elective hospital is one of three developments planned under Sláintecare’s National Elective Ambulatory Care Strategy.
In conjunction with two more elective hospitals in Dublin and Galway, it is hoped that the developments will cater for up to 940,000 procedures annually.
Day procedures offered in the first phase will include gastrointestinal, gynaecology, ophthalmology, and orthopaedic procedures.
“So many people are waiting and they’re so stoic. They could be waiting for hips or a cataract procedure and it’s hugely impacting their quality of life,” said Dr Sheehan.
“Hopefully, if Covid and ransomware attacks aren’t making as much of an impact next year and with more on the new elective hospital, we can start to tackle the issue.”