Cork hospitals in crisis: 27,000 appointments cancelled at five hospitals in first half of 2021

Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows that more than 27,000 appointments were cancelled at five hospitals across the county between January and June last year.
Cork hospitals in crisis: 27,000 appointments cancelled at five hospitals in first half of 2021

Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows that more than 27,000 appointments were cancelled at five hospitals across the county between January and June last year.

ALMOST 30,000 hospital appointments and procedures were cancelled across Cork in the first half of 2021, The Echo can reveal.

Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows that more than 27,000 appointments were cancelled at five hospitals across the county between January and June last year.

These include more than 23,000 outpatient appointments and almost 4,500 inpatient or day procedures.

Some of the hospitals revealed that Covid-19 was a key reason behind some cancellations, with both the hospitals and patients cancelling appointments as a result of the virus.

“Behind every single one of these appointments is a person waiting for often life-changing treatment,” Cork Sinn Féin TD Thomas Gould said. “While Covid-19 had a huge impact on our hospital capacity, we can’t be under any illusion. Hospitals were in crisis before the pandemic because of decades of underfunding.”

At the beginning of last year, hospitals across Cork and Ireland were dealing with yet another wave of Covid-19 cases in the wake of the Christmas period.

On January 11, 2021, Ireland reported a staggering 43,199 cases of Covid-19, while the seven-day average stood at more than 20,000. Around the same time, almost 1,700 people were in hospitals with Covid-19 across Ireland, including 158 in intensive care units.

With hospitals struggling to cope with the surge in Covid cases, cancellations of appointments by both hospitals and patients increased.

Cork University Hospital

Cork University Hospital saw the highest number of outpatient appointment cancellations in Cork between January and June last year. Almost 18,000 outpatient appointments were cancelled at the hospital during that period, as well as around 1,500 inpatient or day-case appointments.

In January last year, CUH saw 552 inpatient or day-case procedures cancelled, along with almost 5,500 outpatient appointments.

During the six-month period, CUH rescheduled around 17,600 outpatient appointments and cancelled around 7,000 more. The hospital did not provide any information as to whether or not Covid-19 played a factor in any of these cancellations or rescheduled appointments.

Cork University Maternity Hospital

Cork University Maternity Hospital, however, did provide some context as to how Covid impacted services during the same period. Between January and June last year, CUMH saw the forced cancellation of 48 in- patient or day-case appointments as well as 990 outpatient appointments.

Twenty-six of the inpatient/day-case appointments were cancelled as a result of the pandemic, the hospital revealed.

Meanwhile, the pandemic also played a part in the cancellation of outpatient appointments at the hospital.

CUMH revealed that 595 patients cancelled their outpatient appointments due to the pandemic, while the hospital itself cancelled 144 appointments for the same reason.

Mercy University Hospital

Mercy University Hospital (MUH) saw 1,850 outpatient appointments and 1,810 inpatient/day cases cancelled between January and June last year.

The hospital explained that it was not possible to state whether the pandemic or hospital overcrowding resulted in the cancellation of any outpatient appointments.

However, the highest number of outpatient cancellations were recorded in January, with more than 400 cancelled in that month alone.

MUH did provide cancellation reasons for the 1,810 inpatient or day cases.

While “cancelled by patient” was the main reason for cancellations, more than 200 appointments were cancelled by the hospital due to the pandemic, while around 150 were cancelled by patients as a result of the virus.

Once again, the majority of these cancellations came in January, with 608 in total. “To put the data into context,” the hospital explained, “Mercy University Hospital ensures every effort is made to prevent cancellations of patient appointments/procedures and any such cancellations are re-prioritised as a matter of urgency”.

South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital

More than 1,700 outpatient appointments were cancelled at South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital (SIVUH) between January and June 2021.

More than 300 were cancelled “due to the pandemic”, according to the hospital’s records. However, SIVUH admitted that more of the numbers “likely include cancellations due to the pandemic or cyber-attack” but were not recorded as such.

Meanwhile, SIVUH saw around 879 cancelled inpatient or day-case appointments during the same period.

Some 678 of these were cancelled by the hospital as a result of the pandemic, along with a further 201 cancelled by patients for the same reason.

Mallow General Hospital

Mallow General Hospital saw around 1,149 appointments cancelled across both inpatient /day-case and outpatient departments.

The cancellations included some 331 appointments for general surgery, along with 212 for gastroenterology.

The hospital did not provide any information as to the impact of Covid-19 on these cancellations.

Investment needed

Deputy Thomas Gould highlighted the need for “targeted investment” in the health service.

“In March this year, CUH alone had over 30,000 people waiting for a hospital appointment, with almost 10,000 waiting over 18 months. The reality is that many of these cancelled appointments in 2021 have still not been met,” the Sinn Féin TD said.

“There just doesn’t seem to be the sense of urgency from the Government but what we know is that while people are stuck on waiting lists or have appointments cancelled, conditions worsen. What was simple becomes complex. What was minor becomes major.

“The Government needs to act now to invest and overcome the huge difficulties in health care,” he said.

The South/South West Hospital Group (SSWHG) was contacted for comment.

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