Almost 10,000 people aged 75 or above are waiting more than 18 months for outpatient procedures, new figures show.
The figures, which were released to Sinn Féin health spokesman David Cullinane in a parliamentary question, show that the issue is at its most pronounced in the south and west of the country.
Overall, there are 9,992 people aged over 75 years waiting for more than a year and a half for an outpatient procedure, with significant demand for eye care in many hospitals.
Within Cork University Hospital, there are 1,185 over 75s waiting for surgery for 18 months or more – the vast majority, some 820 people, awaiting ophthalmology procedures.
Galway University Hospitals account for another 1,558 people, with 291 awaiting urology procedures, 251 for ophthalmology and 214 waiting for more than a year and half for vascular surgery.
In University Hospital Limerick, there are 964 over 75s waiting over 18 months for procedure - with ophthalmology again the largest contributor with 388 on the waiting list. In Waterford, there’s 797 people aged over 75 waiting this long, with the largest group – some 251 people – those awaiting dermatology appointments, and another 221 on the ophthalmology list.
There are 581 people awaiting ophthalmology appointments at the Eye and Ear hospital in Dublin.
A total of 1,004 children have been waiting more than 18 months for an inpatient procedure, according to separate figures from the Department of Health.
This includes 344 under-18s who have been waiting for respiratory treatment and 160 with orthopaedic issues.
In addition, 13,105 children have been waiting more than 18 months to see a consultant for an outpatient appointment, according to the figures supplied to Mr Cullinane.
Some 7,835 of these patients are on the waiting lists of the three children’s hospitals in Dublin, but other, adult hospital also have large numbers of children waiting long periods on their lists: 1,115 in Galway University Hospitals, 745 in University Hospital Limerick and 626 in Letterkenny University Hospital.
There are 91,844 waiting for an outpatient appointment and 10,184 for an inpatient procedure. This total of 102,028 children on waiting lists is more than 5,000 higher than are recorded on the monthly figures published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund.
Mr Cullinane said there were variations in wait times between specialities and regions, which needed to be addressed and the reasons identified. “It is clear that ophthalmology and orthopaedics are areas where waiting lists are higher. This is a direct consequence of a lack of specialist staff which can only be addressed by a comprehensive work force plan”.
Last year, the Oireachtas health committee heard that the demographic demand for eye care services was “set to increase exponentially” in the coming years, with the delivery of the services “challenging”.
In July, Prof David Keegan, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at the Mater hospital, told the committee that the waiting lists were the longest in the country. Many patients awaiting procedures to remove cataracts have travelled outside the jurisdiction, including to Northern Ireland. Prof Keegan said at the time that the current service provision model is “unsustainable and will require transformational change”.
In the Mater hospital, there are 862 over 75s on waiting lists this long, with the largest contributor being urology – where some 293 are still waiting for a slot.
Overall, there are 66,910 outpatients awaiting an appointment - with the majority of 36,651 waiting for less than six months. Another 12,894 are waiting for a procedure for between six and 12 months, and 6,737 are waiting for between a year and 18 months.
Overall, Galway University Hospital has the greatest number of over 75s on waiting lists, at 6,180, followed by the Mater hospital with 5,495, University Hospital Waterford with 5,315, and University Hospital Limerick with 4,770.
Mr Cullinane said the Government’s waiting list plan is “clearly failing”.
“The biggest challenge is in recruiting staff. Any health waiting list plan needs to be underpinned by a comprehensive work force plan aimed at increasing medical training places.”