Recently published figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund have shown that there are a total of 29,152 women in Ireland, on the list for out-patient gynaecology appointments.
Dr Rhona Mahony director of women’s health for the Ireland East Hospital Group has said that the waiting lists are totally unacceptable and that Ireland has the lowest amount of consultants above any other country within the EU.
A new campaign launched earlier this week by the Irish Hospital Consultant Association #CareCantWait, has suggested that long waiting delays can have a serious impact on the patient. The IHCA is calling on the Government to take immediate action to get the waiting lists dealt with as a matter of urgency.
According to the campaign, one in five posts are either ‘filled or unfilled’ by consultants in the Irish healthcare system. This means that in the long run, the shortage will eventually have an impact on those waiting to be seen by a consultant with a serious health condition.
Health conditions like cervical cancer and endometrioses, for example, can often have silent symptoms and may not show up until routine tests are carried out by the doctor, often referring the woman to a gynaecologist for further tests as required.
Lorraine Walsh of the 221+ Cervical Cancer Group said: “it’s so sad to think that there are so many women with their life on hold waiting for their gynaecology appointments.
“It’s shocking, it’s absolutely imperative that our country can ensure women’s lives and their health are valued going forward. As it is the women of Ireland have been hurt and let down way too many times.”
Kathleen King Chairperson Endometriosis Association of Ireland commented saying, “we see from our members, that waiting lists to see a gynaecologist for an initial appointment are excessive with some women waiting almost 2 years for an initial appointment.
“Endometriosis can only be diagnosed by a surgical procedure (laparoscopy) that is done as a day case in hospital, this is another point of waiting for many patients as it is not considered an urgent referral.
“While the average delay in diagnosis is 9 years, we see many women with delays over 15 years due to a combination of factors including being misdiagnosed, referred to the wrong specialty, reluctance to perform a laparoscopy and the long waiting times between each gynaecology appointment”
The HSE has issued a statement saying, ‘The HSE regrets that any patient should experience long waiting times to access an outpatient appointment.
The HSE recognises the significant additional pressures on Gynaecology services. This is evidenced by the increased numbers of referrals, particularly since Summer 2018, which have already reached almost 20,000 in the first 4 months of 2018, compared to 51,000 in total in 2018.
‘The National Women’s and Infants Health Programme are working with Hospitals to develop a new model of care based on ambulatory clinics, which would reduce the requirement for multiple appointments. The introduction of these revised pathways has seen positive patient impact and waiting list reductions in Mayo and Cork”