Tuesday, 28 September 2021
Hospital Waiting Lists: Motion [Private Members]
As the Minister well knows, my city has a number of hospitals and they have fantastic staff working in them. The waiting lists are not of their making. It is not their fault but it is the staff and patients who suffer. I believe the Minister has no plan for this. There is no direction.
I have raised this issue with the Minister in the Chamber since he was appointed, especially the trolley crisis in University Hospital Limerick, UHL, which is ongoing. This month will see almost 1,000 people on trolleys in UHL. I plead with the Minister again to come and have a look at that.
As has been said, more than 900,000 people are on waiting lists throughout the State. The figures for UHL are particularly stark with 43,656 people currently on outpatient waiting lists for a consultation. More than 23,000 of them have been waiting for more than one year, and of these, 19,000 have been waiting for more than 18 months. This totally unacceptable. We can get lost in the figures but each and every one of those is a person whose life is being impacted by his or her ailments.
Last week, I received a response from a parliamentary question I tabled regarding one such individual, a woman in her mid-60s who is suffering from severe cartilage damage to her knee. It inhibits her movement and restricts her lifestyle. Her status or grading on the waiting list is "urgent". For me, the word "urgent" means she needs her consultation promptly, yet we are advised she will be waiting for 30 months. How can the Minister stand over somebody waiting 30 months for an appointment that is deemed urgent? She will endure 30 months of pain and limited movement. She will be 70 years old by the time she sees her consultant. This is an absolute disgrace.
Recently, a consultant who was on duty at UHL rang me to ask if I could intervene to get a scan for one of his patients. How bonkers is it that a consultant in the hospital has to ring a local parliamentarian to get a scan done in the hospital? There is something seriously wrong there. The Minister needs to intervene.
We need to see a centralised referral system coupled with an integrated waiting system to manage this. The planning and additions will allow for patients to be seen at different hospitals as capacity allows. As I said, UHL consistently has problems with overcrowding.
This month today, we have almost 1,000 people treated on trolleys in the hospital. I refer back to the waiting lists and categories of appointments on which people are waiting. There are so many, and of course the type of appointment which some will be waiting for will be the most important for those individuals. One figure that stood out for me was that of maxillofacial outpatient appointments in UHL. These are people with physical injuries to the face. Some 2,891 people have been awaiting such appointments for 18 months or more.
I do not want to be all negative. We in Sinn Féin have a plan for how to fix the health service. We know the direction to take. It will require significant but necessary investment. We cannot have our sick being treated like this and we cannot leave our healthcare professionals working in such challenging conditions.