herald

Saturday 21 October 2017

Women with fertility fears face two-year wait for hospital care

Dr Sam Coulter-Smith
Dr Sam Coulter-Smith

Women with fertility problems are being asked to wait for very long periods of time before being seen, according to the Master of the Rotunda Hospital.

Dr Sam Coulter-Smith said that the waiting lists for gynaecology out-patient appointments at the hospital are up to two years.

"They are not waiting for surgery. They are waiting for outpatient appointments," Dr Coulter-Smith said.

"If they are high risk they will be seen much more quickly because we triage our out-patient requests so that patients who we feel are at increased risk of cancer are seen within a couple of weeks. But the routine waits would be considerably longer."

Dr Coulter-Smith said that they are trying their best to clear the list but it is a slow process.

"We have worked with the HSE through their out-patient management appointment system and we have managed to rationalise that significantly," he said.

"We have cut out the number of people who are waiting for appointments in two or three hospitals.

"That has significantly helped to bring down the numbers," he added.

The Rotunda is the principle provider of gynaecology services on the northside of the city.

The other hospitals on the northside are limited, because of bed issues and bed availability.

"So it leaves us in a situation where an awful lot of patients, particularly fertility patients, are being asked to wait for very long periods of time before being seen," he said.

He said that these patients would be waiting for investigation of fertility issues, if they are concerned that they are not getting pregnant. Those affected are a variety of ages.

"But I suppose one of the issues is people are putting childbirth off till later in life, so by the time they realise they have an issue, time is ticking," he told the Herald.

He previously warned about the waiting lists in the 2013 annual corporate report of the Rotunda Hospital, which highlighted the huge demand for gynaecology outpatient services as the population increased.

Dr Coulter-Smith said: "This is a very significant impact on women with fertility issues who now face long waiting lists to be seen in outpatient clinics.

"In addition, access to gynae services for women who may ultimately be diagnosed with a gynae cancer may also be delayed."

cancers

These diseases can include cervical, ovarian, uterine or vaginal cancers and affect a woman's reproductive system.

Pressure on the clinics has continued this year and recent figures showed 3,000 women were waiting to be seen for a routine appointment.

The cases of all women referred are first triaged to assess if they are urgent or routine. It can take up to three months for an urgent case to be seen.

Last year many women from the gynaecology waiting list who were due for admission for surgery had it cancelled at short notice because of a lack of theatre space because the delivery of babies took priority.

Writing in the report, Dr Coulter-Smith said: "It is most important that these issues are recognised by the funders of the health service and those who make policy decisions around where the money goes."

The Rotunda is planning to build more extensions to the existing building.

Meanwhile, Dr Coulter-Smith is now six years into his seven-year term of office as Master.

"We deliver almost 9,000 babies a year, and if you average that out it would be probably 25 to 30 in a 24-hour period," said Dr Coulter-Smith.

"But obstetrics doesn't work like that. You have peaks and troughs.

"We had three 24-hour periods in December of last year when we delivered 42, 45 and 47 babies so it was a hugely busy time," he said.

fdillon@herald.ie

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