Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, David Cullinane TD, has said that the burden of overcrowded emergency departments is being shifted onto waiting lists through increasing cancellations of appointments and procedures.
Data released by the HSE to Teachta Cullinane shows that there were more than 85,000 appointments and procedures cancelled in the first four months of the year. There were more than 24,000 appointments cancelled in April, the worst month so far, which is nearly 70% more than were cancelled last April.
The TD for Waterford said that dysfunction across the health service is driving a vicious cycle of overcrowding, cancellations, and long waits, and that a multi-annual plan is needed to expand hospital capacity and develop a sustainable workforce.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“More than 85,000 hospital appointments have been cancelled so far this year, including more than 24,000 in April.
“The health service is shifting the burden of overcrowded emergency departments onto waiting lists by cancelling procedures on a regular basis and at an increasing rate. The consequences are longer waiting times and delays to patient care.
“This is happening because the government has not made the necessary investments in hospital care or in community care. There is a deficit of 1,000 acute inpatient beds in hospitals, and there are now more than 6,000 people waiting for home support.
“There are hundreds of delayed discharges every year because of the lack of community recovery beds and home support.
“The health service is not delivering the right care in the right place at the right time. We are seeing this across primary care now, with longer waiting times for GPs and dentistry, which will lead to worse health outcomes.
“Waiting times are rising across the board. All of this dysfunction is leading to more emergency presentations which is leading to more cancellations. It is a vicious cycle which has not been broken.
“The only solution is a multi-annual plan to expand hospital capacity – across diagnostics, beds, theatre capacity, and staffing – and to deliver a step-change in primary and community care to shift some of the burden out of hospitals.
“No efforts to fix the health service will be successful without a robust strategic workforce plan for training and retaining the clinicians we need to safely staff the health service.”