Fianna Fáil TD for Limerick Niall Collins is warning that patients will be left in pain and suffering as hospital waiting lists continue to grow during the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s calling on the government to start using non-COVID hospitals for essential procedures and operations.

At the end of March, there were more there were more than 3,500 people waiting on in-patient treatments at University Hospital Limerick and St. John’s. That number is expected to have risen dramatically in the past month as private hospitals, where many NTPF patients would have been treated, were handed over to the HSE as part of the COVID-19 contingency plans.

Deputy Collins explained, “While the decision to bring the private hospitals under the control of the HSE to cope with the anticipated capacity pressure from COVID-19, I believe that the situation now needs to be reviewed. Our public hospitals and their outstanding staff have proved that they are more than able to cope with the capacity levels. Doctors, nurses, care assistants and frontline workers have exceeded all expectations and are working to bring this virus under control in our communities and I want to thank each and every one of them for their efforts.

“Every week we are seeing more and more people leave hospital having fought the Coronavirus with the help of our medical and hygiene teams.

“However, while the focus has been on fighting COVID-19, there are thousands of people in Limerick and across the country who have been left waiting. People with cancer needing treatment, people waiting on knee and hip operations or cataract procedures. The longer waits could see their conditions deteriorate further, and many of them are already in pain and worried about their prognosis.

“I’ve had a number of consultants contact me, frustrated that private hospitals are lying idle and worried about their own patients. One told me that the Bons Secours Hospital at Barringtons had NO inpatients on a certain day. They want to treat their patients but can’t while these hospitals are under the control of the HSE.

“We need a slight shift in focus now. That doesn’t mean thinking that the COVID crisis is under control, but we cannot continue to ignore other essential treatments and procedures. We need to look at treating these patients in non-COVID settings – maybe using the private hospitals – as is the case with the National Treatment Purchase Fund.

“I’m very concerned about growing waiting lists – new figures for April are due out later this week and I believe they will be substantially higher than what was recorded in March. We cannot continue to push treatment for these patients further and further down the line. We need to make a plan now”.