OVER 8,900 children were waiting for hospital appointments in Cork at the end of last month, according to the latest figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).
The majority of appointments were for outpatient procedures, with 5,816 children waiting for outpatient appointments in Cork University Hospital (CUH), 1,115 of them for more than 18 months.
South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital had the next longest outpatient waiting list at 2,061, while 146 children were awaiting an appointment at Mallow General Hospital and 480 at Mercy University Hospital (MUH).
Just over 8,000 (8,016) children were waiting for inpatient appointments around the country, including 343 children in Cork.
According to the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (ICHA), an additional 8,360 children were awaiting CTs, MRIs or ultrasounds, bringing the total number of children waiting on a hospital appointment to over 100,000, with 1 in 3 waiting longer than a year to be seen.
Adult waiting lists Meanwhile, over 538,000 (538,609) adults were waiting for outpatient appointments in Ireland by the end of March, 72,460 of them for Cork hospitals, and 68,379 were waiting on an inpatient appointment, including 6,234 adults in Cork.
CUH again had the highest number awaiting outpatient appointments at 32,898, while 21,169 adults were waiting for appointments at South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital.
MUH had 7,014 adults on its waiting list for outpatient appointments by March 31, Mallow General Hospital had 3,190, CUMH had 2,588, and Bantry General Hospital had 1,520.
Just over 6,000 (6,054) adults were waiting for inpatient appointments in Cork.
The ICHA said that the figures, particularly the child waiting lists, were of “extreme concern”.
“Every single number is an individual child who could be experiencing pain, suffering, or psychological distress. This is a wholly unacceptable situation.” According to the ICHA, 4,300 additional children are currently waiting to be assessed by a consultant paediatrician.
As of the beginning of March, 18% of all approved paediatric consultant posts in Ireland were either vacant or filled on a temporary basis.
“We have a chronic recruitment and retention crisis that is not being addressed urgently enough,” said Prof Irvine.
“It is imperative these vacant consultant posts are filled. The Government must appoint a replacement Independent Chair immediately to kick-start the stalled hospital consultant contract talks.” Fine Gael’s Health Spokesperson and Cork North Central TD Colm Burke has echoed the calls for the appointment of a new independent chairperson for consultant contract negotiations.
The previous chairperson, Senior Counsel Marguerite Bolger, was appointed as a judge of the High Court in September 2021 and has not yet been replaced.
“We are competing on a world market for medical consultants and many Irish consultants are going abroad. It is important that we make it attractive for consultants to remain in Ireland,” Mr Burke said.
“I am urging Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and the Secretary General of the Department of Health to appoint a new independent chair so that the negotiations can progress.”