Nearly 50,000 are waiting for hospital treatment at University Hospital Waterford
Figure is almost equivalent to entire population of Waterford City
- 43,500 people waiting to be assessed by a Consultant at UHW and almost 5,000 people awaiting inpatient/day case or endoscopy procedures;
- This is almost equivalent to the entire population of Waterford City and suburbs, or about 42% of the population of Waterford County.**
- UHW has largest ENT and Dermatology lists in the entire country as thousands of people wait for an outpatient appointment with a Consultant;
- Hospital has seen its outpatient and inpatient/day case waiting lists more than double since 2015;
- One in four approved permanent hospital Consultant posts at UHW are not filled as needed, which is the root cause of delays in providing timely care to patients.
IHCA Vice President and Consultant Histopathologist at UHW Prof Rob Landers: “The number of people waiting for hospital treatment at University Hospital Waterford is equivalent to almost the entire population of Waterford City and suburbs. This is an unacceptable situation which is being driven by a severe shortage of hospital Consultants and hospital capacity deficits. The Government must make good on its promise to deliver the extra Consultants, extra beds and extra hospital facilities so badly needed to meet the healthcare needs of the 50,000 people currently waiting to be assessed or treated at UHW.”
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has today (26 January 2022) warned of the excessively long waiting times people in the South-East are experiencing before being treated or assessed by a hospital Consultant at University Hospital Waterford (UHW), which has some of the largest waiting lists in the country.
This is despite very significant efforts by local management and hospital Consultants to reduce waiting times through National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) initiatives.
Consultants say that investment in UHW capacity is now critical to providing timely access to care for patients in the area on a sustainable basis, otherwise waiting lists and wait times will continue to grow.
Latest figures from the NTPF confirm that there are 43,558 people awaiting an outpatient appointment, 4,502 waiting for inpatient or day case treatment, and a further 476 patients on a waiting list for a gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy at UHW. Of these, more than four in 10 (21,394 or 44%) have been waiting for longer than a year for assessment or treatment.*
UHW is one of eight designated cancer centres in the country and provides specialty services to the wider South-East population in cancer, cardiology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, neurology, urology, ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat), and pathology.
The hospital has seen many of its specialist waiting lists deteriorate severely over the past decade. The IHCA says the severe shortage of Consultants and hospital capacity deficits are the main reasons for the unacceptable delays in providing care to patients at UHW. More than a quarter (37 or 27%) of the 135 approved permanent Consultant posts at the hospital were vacant or filled on a temporary or agency basis (as at May 2021).***
UHW currently has the largest ENT (10,734) and Dermatology (6,000) outpatient waiting lists in the country, and the fourth largest Orthopaedics list of any hospital.
The specialties with the largest outpatient waiting lists have also seen some of the largest increases since 2015 - an average increase of 157% in the past six years:
|Specialty||UHW Outpatient Waiting List Dec 2015||UHW Outpatient Waiting List Dec 2021||Change|
|Dermatology||253||6,000||+2,272% - more than a 23-fold increase|
|Neurology||596||2,024||+240% - more than a 3-fold increase|
|Cardiology||383||1,874||+389% - almost a 5-fold increase|
The three specialties of ENT, Orthopaedics and Dermatology account for over half (52%) of all those waiting to be assessed by a Consultant at UHW. There are growing concerns that patients in the area will be at a greater risk of a potential delayed diagnosis of cancer or face months of pain while awaiting hip or knee surgery.
Analysis of the lists shows a 10-fold increase in the number of those waiting longer than a year for an outpatient appointment since December 2015, with almost 20,000 patients now waiting for 12 months or longer for an assessment.
Almost a third (1,342 or 30%) of all those on inpatient/day case waiting lists for all specialties have been waiting for longer than a year for their procedure, which is more than double the number of ‘long waiters’ at the hospital six years ago. The risk of these conditions becoming more serious and difficult to treat are greater the longer patients have to wait for treatment, resulting in poorer patient outcomes.
Commenting on the waiting lists, IHCA Vice President and Consultant Histopathologist at UHW Professor Rob Landers said:
“The number of people waiting for hospital treatment at University Hospital Waterford, one of the country’s nine designated cancer centres, is equivalent to almost the entire population of Waterford City and suburbs. This is an unacceptable situation which is being driven by a severe shortage of hospital Consultants and hospital capacity deficits.
“The Government and health service must stop hiding behind the pandemic as the main reason for growing public hospital waiting lists. What is needed are properly resourced, effective plans to expand public hospital capacity and sort this problem out once and for all. The HSE Service Plan for 2022 also needs to be published without delay and must commit to delivering on long-promised extra public hospital capacity.
“Ireland has the lowest number of hospital consultants and acute hospital beds on a population basis in Europe, with both around 40% below the EU average. UHW has only had one additional ICU bed opened over the past five years, which nationally are at half the EU average.**** While the hospital managed to utilise part of the recently constructed five storey Dunmore Wing to alleviate some of the pressure caused by Covid, this was at the expense of its intended use for inpatient palliative care services.
“The State needs to progress plans to expand capacity at the hospital without delay. The Government must make good on its promise to provide extra Consultants, extra beds and extra hospital facilities so badly needed to meet the healthcare needs of the 50,000 people currently waiting to be assessed or treated at UHW. Most importantly, the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly must deliver on his ‘unambiguous commitment’ to resolve the pay inequity issue for all Consultants contracted since 2012 to fill the vacant Consultant posts and bring these waiting lists under control.”
* Analysis based on latest NTFP data available, as at 23rd December 2021: https://www.ntpf.ie/home/nwld.htm
** Waterford City and suburbs had a population of 53,505 at the time of the 2016 Census while the population of Waterford County was 116,176. See https://www.cso.ie/en/census/.
*** HSE PQ response to Deputy David Cullinane, 16th September 2021. See https://www.hse.ie/eng/about/personalpq/pq/2021-pq-responses/september-2021/pq-43289-21-david-cullinane.pdf.
**** HSE PQ response to Deputy Martin Browne, 26th November 2021. See https://www.hse.ie/eng/about/personalpq/pq/2021-pq-responses/november-2021/pq-56137-21-martin-browne.pdf; Health at a Glance: Europe 2020, see https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/social-issues-migration-health/health-at-a-glance-europe-2020_82129230-en.