Further delays mean surgery waiting times worsen
Waiting times for patients facing the longest delays for surgery have worsened again as hospitals buckle under the strain of record overcrowding.
New figures released yesterday showed 5,016 patients in February were waiting at least a year-and-a-half for surgery - up from 4,948 in January.
It comes as thousands of public patients have endured having their planned surgery cancelled since the start of the year due to a lack of beds and an influx of patients to A&Es.
These figures do not take into account the impact of the recent snowstorm which forced hospitals to reduce services.
While the overall waiting list for surgery fell slightly from 80,204 in January to 79,039 last month, there has been an escalation in those waiting longer periods, many of them very ill.
The target is to have no public patient waiting longer than 18 months - but this is getting further out of reach.
The same trend is seen in outpatient waiting lists, with 74,627 now in a queue for at least 18 months to see a specialist, a jump of 1,235 in just a month.
There are 500,800 on outpatient waiting lists across the country with 8,808 children now delayed at least a year-and-a-half, compared to 8,553 in January.
It recently emerged that a child who needs to see an orthopaedic surgeon could be waiting for three years.
They are among 62,344 child and adult patients who are on a waiting list to see an orthopaedic surgeon.
Another 17,921 patients are in another queue for an endoscopy, an invasive diagnostic procedure.
The Government has promised to spend €50m this year purchasing treatments for public patients but the waiting lists, which have ballooned in recent years, will remain at critical levels until public hospitals have more beds and staff.
Waiting list figures show there are 42,187 in a queue to see a specialist across the three children's hospitals in Crumlin, Temple Street and Tallaght.
The Mater has the longest outpatient waiting list of 36,252 and 5,182 have faced a delay of at least a year-and-a-half to see one of its specialists.