More than 40% of all patients in Ireland waiting more than 18 months for inpatient or day case hospital operation are on the Galway University Hospitals waiting list.
And Galway West Independent TD Noel Grealish has claimed that part of the reason is that beds in the Surgical Day Ward at UHG are being taken up by an overflow of people on trolleys from the Emergency Department.
“This is resulting in appointments for day case operations and treatments being cancelled left right and centre, and that’s certainly contributing to the waiting lists growing.
“The most recent figures show that of 2,937 patients all over the country who have been on the waiting list for day case or inpatient operations for a year and a half or more, 1,189 of them are on the Galway waiting list.
“This is just shocking — the next biggest number in this category in any of the other hospitals in 264 in Beaumont in Dublin, a fraction of the Galway total. And the figures for people waiting a year and more are also by a long way the highest of any hospital in the country.”
Deputy Grealish said that almost 3,400 day case operations were cancelled in Galway during 2016, according to figures supplied to him by the HSE.
“I don't know how many of these cancellations were due to the fact that the limited space in the surgical day ward, where they are carried out, was taken up by an overflow from the Emergency Department.
“But I do know that a considerable number of the cancellations were down to this reason.
“It’s absolutely imperative that Health Minister Harris, the Taoiseach and the rest of the government stop paying lip service to the idea of a new Emergency Department.
“What they must clearly and unambiguously state now is when funding will be made available for this project, so that it can actually get off the ground.
“Minister Harris made a big fanfare when he visited the hospital last week about his commitment to the new Emergency Department — but crucially, once again, he gave no indication of when the money will be provided.”
Deputy Grealish raised the issue in a Dáil Question to the Minister for Health, seeking information on the incidence of surgical day wards in Irish hospitals being closed due to trolleys from A&E being moved into them.
However, a subsequent reply from the HSE indicated that this information was not recorded at hospital level or held centrally.
“But from the information they did give me on the number of cancellations over the past three years, this would appear to be a problem.
“While the number of inpatient operations cancelled last year was down by 5,000 on the previous year, the number of day case cancellations was practically the same. That tells its own story,” said Deputy Grealish.