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Big rise in waiting lists at UL hospitals during pandemic

During the Covid epidemic, the University of Limerick Hospitals Group saw a considerable increase in the number of patients on its waiting lists.

It was disclosed during a virtual media briefing organised by the Hospitals Group yesterday that the number of outpatients waiting for a first consultation increased by about 20% between 2019 and 2020, underscoring the magnitude of the increase in the last year.

The Hospitals Group has begun rescheduling outpatient visits and surgeries that have been postponed, but it did not provide a particular date for when this process will be finished.

Professor Brian Lenihan, Clinical Director of the UL Hospitals Organisation, said the group, which operates six hospitals in Limerick, Clare, and north Tipperary, would account for nine per cent of all healthcare activity in the country between 2020 and 2021.

He stated that, as of the end of December 2021, there were 617,448 patients nationwide, including 83,377 children, who were waiting for their initial session.
There were more than 153,000 of them who were waiting for an outpatient appointment for more than 18 months.

From 2019 to 2022, the number of outpatients waiting for their first consultant consultation in the Mid West increased from 46,675 to 55,977 (although this number stayed unchanged between 2020 and 2021).

In response to the pandemic, the UL Hospitals Group experienced a surge in its outpatient waiting list, which was particularly noticeable between 2019 and 2020. According to Prof Lenihan, there has been a 19.5% increase in the number of patients waiting for their first visit during that time period, or little more than 9,000 people.”

The number of people who have been waiting for 18 months or more has also increased significantly, rising from 12,109 in 2019 to 20,449 in 2021. The number of outpatient visits across the group, on the other hand, decreased from 217, 981 in 2019 to 183,855 in 2021.

“The greatest impact on waiting lists can be noticed among people who have been waiting more than 18 months for their first outpatient clinic, which is understandable given the fall in the number of outpatient clinics as a result of Covid’s implementation. ”

Prof Lenihan added that when looking at the overall numbers, it is clear that we have reached a somewhat stable condition. The focus for 2022 will be on individuals who have been waiting for more than 18 months through a variety of programmes, he said.

As a result of the pandemic, telemedicine and virtual clinics have become commonplace, with 24.4 percent of patients receiving their first consultation virtually in 2020 and 22.1 percent of outpatient appointments taking place online in 2021.

“Online consultations have shown to be incredibly beneficial, and they will continue to be an element of our scheduled care approach in the future,” Prof Lenihan said. ”

In addition, he stated that an additional 4,435 patients were seen in 2021 through the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) and 5,657 patients were seen through the Advanced Clinical Prioritisation initiative, both of which were funded by the NTPF and the Advanced Clinical Prioritisation initiative, respectively.

There has been an increase in the number of consultants, non-consultant hospital doctors, advanced nurse practitioners, clinical specialty nurses, extended scope physiotherapists, and clerical and administrative employees, among other things.

The number of people who visited the University of Houston’s emergency department, which is the only one in the midwest, climbed by more than 10,000 in 2021. However, the number of inpatient discharges from the hospital climbed by 1,971 over the same time period.

During the pandemic, the number of day cases decreased (from 42,563 in 2019 to slightly more than 38,000 in 2020 and 202).

The number of births at University Maternity Hospital Limerick grew by 145 in 2021, according to the hospital’s statistics.

When asked why the maternity hospital was “not fit for purpose,” UL Hospitals Group chief executive Colette Cowan responded that it was because of a reduction in staff numbers due to Covid-19 that a number of babies had to be transferred to other neo-natal units at the height of the pandemic in 2015.

She stated that the company aims to construct a new maternity facility for €250 million, but that this has not yet been approved by the Department of Health.