The Irish Hospital Consultants Association has warned that hospital waiting lists in the West are among the worst in the country.
Over 127,700 people are on outpatient waiting list at hospitals across the Saolta Hospital Group, an increase of 72% since 2015.
Mayo University Hospital has seen waiting lists increase by 162% between July 2015 and July 2021. The hospital has seen patient numbers rise from 5,858 to 15,331.
Some of the longest waiting lists across the whole region are for routine, planned care particularly in orthopaedics, ENT (Otolaryngology), urology, general surgery, ophthalmology, gynaecology and dermatology.
Patients are waiting to see a consultant and then receive treatment for procedures such as hip or knee replacements, tonsillectomies, prostate biopsies, and cataract surgery, while others face similar waits for critical gynaecological assessments and skin biopsy for possible cancers.
Elsewhere in the region outpatient waiting lists at Roscommon University Hospital rose by 199% since July 2015. Sligo University Hospital’s figures increased by 69% and Galway University Hospital saw a 64% rise.
Commenting on the waiting lists, IHCA President Professor Alan Irvine, said: “The severe shortage of consultants in our public hospitals is the main contributor to the unacceptable delays in providing care to patients at our regional hospitals.
“These growing waiting lists demonstrate the impact of years of consultant shortages and underinvestment in capacity across public hospitals in the region.
“Covid-19 and, more recently, the cyberattack have unmasked deep fundamental deficiencies in our health system which we always knew were there, but which have now been exposed in a way previously unseen.
“We have a chronic recruitment and retention crisis with 1 in 5 permanent hospital consultant posts across the country and in the Saolta Group either vacant or filled on a temporary basis.
“Meeting the healthcare needs of the 152,000 people in the West and North-West regions currently waiting to be assessed or treated by a consultant will only be possible by urgently filling vacant permanent hospital consultant posts and expanding the regions hospital beds, operating theatre and other essential hospital facilities.”