Fianna Fáil TD for Donegal Charlie McConalogue has described as scandalous the fact that more than 1,400 people are waiting more than 2 years for an outpatient appointment at Letterkenny General Hospital. The figures, published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund, reveal a 550% surge in the number of patients being forced to wait over a year to be seen, with almost 5,000 languishing on lists for 12 months or more.
Deputy McConalogue commented, “The speed at which these waiting lists are growing is frightening. In the space of one year, the numbers waiting for an outpatient appointment have jumped from 755 in January 2014 to 4,927 last month. Letterkenny now has the largest number of patients waiting more than two years for an appointment in the whole of the country. This is an unprecedented increase and is completely unacceptable.
“Waiting lists at Letterkenny General Hospital and other hospitals right across the country have been spiralling out of control over the past three years, and now they are reaching record levels. Thousands of people across Donegal are being forced to wait years for a first appointment with a consultant, before being transferred onto another lengthy waiting list if a follow-up treatment or procedure is required. The situation has become so unsustainable that some consultants have closed their waiting lists and are now referring patients back to their GPs.
“The problems in our health service have now spread to all key departments. Emergency Departments are in the midst of an overcrowding crisis, the failure to allocate sufficient funding for the Fair Deal scheme is leading to major backlogs, and outpatient waiting lists are forcing patients to wait years for appointments. The Health Minister failed to secure an adequate Budget for 2015 with the HSE itself admitting that it will not have the resources this year to tackle waiting lists. This has resulted in a rapid deterioration of the situation, which is unlikely to be resolved before the end of the year.
“The delays in outpatient appointments are not only unacceptable; they are extremely distressing for the people involved. They are facing into months, and in thousands of cases, years of anxiety before their illness is either diagnosed or treated. This is unbelievably cruel and there is an onus on Minister Leo Varadkar to take control of the situation. Letterkenny General is already under immense pressure as it attempts to deal with this waiting list crisis and I have grave concerns that unless urgent action is taken, these appalling delays will put patient care and outcomes at risk”.